Monday, March 21, 2005

Declaration of the state of peace

Here is a poem that did not win any mention whatsoever in the Oregon PeaceWorks Poetry contest. Of the four that did, one was worthy. It tied for 3rd place. The others, well, let's say they were at best fluffily written and schmaltzily judged.

In a word: trite.
Why they were picked is beyond me.
Poetry 101 stuff in need of lots of workshopping to survive.

I am certainly not jealous or unhappy that I didn't win. Not at all. I ask only that a poem that wins a contest actually exhibit some semblance of originality, that it merit whatever accolade it has been afforded, that it be judged by competent judges who actually know a good poem when it bites them on the lyric ass.

I enjoy nothing more than silently nodding my head in agreement with whatever chosen poem is deemed to be best among hundreds or thousands submitted when that poem embodies craft, message, originality, and engagement.

It tends to irk me when Hallmarkish poems written with built-in handrails and shatter-proof safety glass requiring little to no emotional involvement are chosen over poems that otherwise invite and impress one to look deeper than the surface of a thin reflection.

The topic was peace. At the outset, I was resolved not to use the word peace anywhere in the piece. However, as it progressed, the word absolutely insisted. So in that, I failed.
This was my insufficient and overlooked offering:

All The Days I’ve Looked

In all the days I’ve looked at myself,
I’ve always seen something else. When
I was a young boy, I saw the old man
waiting to remember the boy. When
I was middle aged, I saw the confluence
of a man’s life where the river runs in
two directions at the same time. And
when I became old, I saw the young boy
grinning in the mirror saying, Remember
me who once remembered you?


There is blood on my hands. Each man
has at least some. Seems we’re born to it.
Yet, in all my days, I never started one war.
Others did so in my name, in the names of
my children, in the names of lost countries,
names candled in dark and hallowed places.

If there were missiles in my heart, I never armed
them. If the machinery of oblivion ever stirred within
the mettle of my wrath, it never found structure.
If there was profit in the mongering, not one soul
was ever dispatched by the trigger of my greed.

As a boy, I killed birds. As a man, I killed dreams.
The birds belonged to the sky of the world. The
dreams were my own. I’ve my contritions to attend
to and my forgivenesses to seek. Perhaps this is the
way of peace: to stand penitent in the ashes of all
we regret, to plead ourselves amid ruin and the
spilled marrow of what may yet be saved so that
this elusive lesson might find its first teacher,
one who might suddenly stand before us and say,
Remember me who once remembered you?

Joseph Gallo
January 6, 2005

2 Comments:

Blogger Kyle parried...

You've expresed why I almost never submit to contests. I happen to think there's an intrinsic difference between a work of art and the best bowl of chili. Your poem is the former; no need to toss it in a bit steamy pot of the latter.

March 24, 2005 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anica parried...

This is anica. As always your poetry is amazing. :hug:

April 04, 2005 1:49 PM  

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