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Poem: "The Whole of Civilization" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "The Whole of Civilization"
This poem came out of the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Anthony Barrette.


"The Whole of Civilization"


Sabers rattle,
and the sound
wakes the dead.

They slip out of the soil
at midnight, winking at
each other like fireflies.

These are the children
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
who walk the world as memories.

Their touch is the kiss of
papery wings, and their voices
are ash in the wind.

They sift into the buildings
where the politicians sit,
and they whisper,

Remember what you have done,
and do not do such evil again,
for history will never forgive you.

The politicians shiver,
and brush their fingers
over expensive sleeves,

but they cannot wipe away
the visions of history that
the ghosts leave behind.

They know that one wrong move
could drop us all into a nuclear crucible
and destroy the whole of civilization.

They are hungry, these ghosts,
but the westerners do not
know how to feed them.

All eyes turn toward North Korea,
but now second thoughts
sprout like bamboo.

* * *

Notes:

"I have to bring to your notice a terrifying reality: with the development of nuclear weapons Man has acquired, for the first time in history, the technical means to destroy the whole of civilization in a single act."
-- Joseph Rotblat

Saber rattling refers to a ritualistic exchange of insults and threats between nations before declaring war.

Grave of the Fireflies is a Japanese ghost story. While critically acclaimed, it is also nightmare fuel, so I do not recommend it -- and certainly not for showing in public at a convention which is where I regrettably stumbled across it. O_O

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been widely criticized as criminal and unnecessary. America remains the only nation to have used nuclear weapons in war, thus making any of its rumblings on the matter a very credible threat.

The risks of nuclear war are dire and the probability, while low, is rising.

Hungry ghosts are most often spoken of as arising from a life of greed, jealousy, or addiction; but they can also come out of deprivation, or if a whole family dies or ceases to worship their ancestors. WWII left Japan in ruins with many people injured, ill, and/or starving. Among the slow and ugly ways that radiation can kill is by destroying the part of the digestive system which absorbs nutrients. So you can see how bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki might generate a lot of hungry ghosts. They can only be fed from the begging bowl of a Buddhist monk or offerings left on an altar. Buddhist practice includes releasing greed and feeding everyone.

North Korea is blustering toward nuclear war, and President Lump is meeting them blowhard for blowhard. This is not good.

Bamboo is a giant woody grass with a prodigious growth rate. It has many positive associations in Asian cultures.

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