detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

: . The Pity of War:

From Poetry 180: a poem a day for American high schools a program organized by the current Poet Laureate Billy Collins and sponsored by the Library of Congress:
    The End and the Beginning
    by Wislawa Szymborska

    After every war
    someone has to clean up.
    Things won't
    straighten themselves up, after all.

    Someone has to push the rubble
    to the side of the road,
    so the corpse-filled wagons
    can pass.

    Someone has to get mired
    in scum and ashes,
    sofa springs,
    splintered glass,
    and bloody rags.

    Someone has to drag in a girder
    to prop up a wall,
    Someone has to glaze a window,
    rehang a door.

    Photogenic it's not,
    and takes years.
    All the cameras have left
    for another war.

    We'll need the bridges back,
    and new railway stations.
    Sleeves will go ragged
    from rolling them up.

    Someone, broom in hand,
    still recalls the way it was.
    Someone else listens
    and nods with unsevered head.
    But already there are those nearby
    starting to mill about
    who will find it dull.

    From out of the bushes
    sometimes someone still unearths
    rusted-out arguments
    and carries them to the garbage pile.

    Those who knew
    what was going on here
    must make way for
    those who know little.
    And less than little.
    And finally as little as nothing.

    In the grass that has overgrown
    causes and effects,
    someone must be stretched out
    blade of grass in his mouth
    gazing at the clouds.

For more, read The Poet and the World Wislawa Szymborska's Nobel Lecture.

Also, read or listen to a report by the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer's Jeffrey Brown on Anthem for Doomed Youth: Twelve Soldier Poets of the First World War, an exhibit held at the Imperial War Museum in London.

If you're planning to visit the NewsHour archives anyway, why not watch, read, or listen to Gwen Ifill's interview with our very own Madam President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? I must say that while I cringed several times while listening to GMA's spin on US-Philippine relations, I was nevertheless impressed with her dignified manner and the borderline articulate way she fielded Ifill's questions. An excerpt:
    GWEN IFILL: Last week, of course, there were bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco which were attributed, or at least linked in first analysis to al-Qaida. Do you think that the back of al-Qaida or of other terrorist organizations which have been operating in the Philippines, for instance, do you think the back has been broken?

    PRESIDENT ARROYO: We take great interest in what happened in Riyadh because Filipinos died in that bombing incident.

    GWEN IFILL: Of course.

    PRESIDENT ARROYO: And what it tells us is that while there has been progress in the war on terror, the war isn't over yet, and therefore, we still need to continue to do our international, regional and bilateral partnerships to fight terrorism.

    And we have to realize that if we're going to win this war, we have to have a comprehensive approach, and that's why I also appreciate the partnership of the U.S. in helping us alleviate poverty in Mindanao, where the terrorists are being recruited, because while we don't say that poverty is the cause of terrorism, what we say is that poverty feeds terrorism, as terrorism feeds poverty because it takes away resources.

    GWEN IFILL: That's what you meant yesterday at the White House when you said they were twin evils.


    GWEN IFILL: So what can the United States do to address both of those evils, not just one? For instance, the United States has been involved in attempting at least, and then withdrawing, to sending troops to help you fight terrorists in the southern Philippines. How does that address your other needs, your economic needs, your needs to alleviate poverty?

    PRESIDENT ARROYO: Well, the United States has also been helping us very much in alleviating poverty, especially in Mindanao, which as I said, where the breeding grounds of terrorism are. And I believe that with this kind of comprehensive approach, fighting terrorism directly through military assistance, and fighting poverty that makes terrorism operate more successfully, then we will be able to defeat this threat once and for all.

If only all of this were true.

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