Dear foreign power


If you must do something,

chant us a blessing, a sutra.
mantras, jasmine flowers for the ear.
Spark the air with recitation
not the bombs, not the artillery,
not the bleak ash of mortar fire.

Please, no more of your political philosophies
and these cruel brands of death you’ve invented,
just airs clear as crystal chimes
and maybe a few Yankee dollars for the poor.

A nautilus shell caked with sand
is my home.
Hold it gently to your ear.
Don’t crush it.
My rooms are
fragrant as pine needles and frangipani,
as bread baking in the oven.
They can do without the rotting smells of carnage.

So don’t hand me back
the scarred bodies of sons.
Don’t make me speak over the thunder.
Don’t make me forget
all those words of my own language,
or the ballads, the stories.
And don’t wrench a child, any child,
out of a child’s world.

We are not a sore
so don’t think your guns can heal us.
Yes, we have our pains.
But the swirl of sea wind,
the gentle ocean trough,
is their cure.

Let these soldiers play kill-or-be-killed
in their own backyard.
Let their boots trample their own crops,
bleed their own lakes and rivers.
Allow us our flower card games
and our dances,
clothes fluttering on lines
and breeze in the hair.

Don’t rub our faces in all the good we have.
Don’t slap us down.
Don’t stain our shoes.
Don’t tell us to move on.
Don’t speak for us.
If you can’t do this,
don’t come.


By John Grey


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