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Wednesday Shout Out
Sarah Browning is the founder of D.C. Poets Against the War and the director of Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness. Her activist furor is a birthright, having been born into an activist family—a sensibility she is passing on to the next generation through her example as an artist, an organizer and an important citizen poet voice speaking out on the injustices being committed by our current government’s misadministration.
Let it come
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.
On Saturday we will travel
the Metro to Union Station
and walk to the Capitol
and demonstrate. The Maoists
will be selling their newspapers,
the cyclists peddling their flyers,
transvestites flinging purple boas,
their banner reads: Celebrate perversity!
We will celebrate each other—
rabbis from Iowa,
hippie girls from Delaware colleges,
a Muslim contingent from Texas,
high school kids with cigarettes.
Our children will be grumpy
and cold. They will complain.
We will all stamp our feet and yell
the slogans of so many years.
We will find the perfect
THE ONLY BUSH
IS MY OWN
To distract our children,
keep them giggling
as the papier maché coffins go by—
the angels of death, skull masks,
photos of bleeding babies—
we will point to Uncle Sam on stilts,
a silvery Statue of Liberty.
Someone will take up the chant
again, the drumming will continue
and we will watch
our breath rise into the cold
Washington morning and disappear.
We will not know
where our chanting goes
when the march is over and the Metro,
buses, trains, long skein of cars
returns us to Mt. Pleasant, Parsippany,
Oneonta, Chattanooga. We who believe
believe our chanting reaches
the ear of God. We who do not,
believe the thinning air receives us—
our harsh and lovely voices.
I will stand in the cold
and try to warm my only son.
As a person who also comes from generations of activists, I identify closely with the energy and excitement of the speaker’s experience at a march. I’m particularly tickled by the memory of the motley crew that one finds at protest rallies. Every group left out of the politicians’ conversations converges to add to the communal outcry, and to find solace and strength in the demonstration of solidarity.
But what’s most interesting about the population of this poem is the truth about the presence of children who are receiving their political education at an early age: it takes patience, and revolution is not about the now but about the future. The value lesson here: it’s not about where one comes from (“Mt. Pleasant, Parsippany,/ Oneonta, Chattanooga”) or even who one is (a transvestite, a rabbi, Muslim from Texas), but about keeping hope and the possibility of change alive.
Browning’s book is filled with unflinching looks at such urgent matters as the war, poverty, feminism, and race relations in America. She speaks honestly from her position as a white woman navigating the touchier subjects that many white writers are afraid to discuss, let alone write about. She’s a firm believer that the responsibility of dialogue is every citizen’s.
(From Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, published by The Word Works, 2007. Used with the permission of the author.)