Tuesday, October 25, 2011


by R. Joseph Capet

This poem was written in response to the NATO campaign in Libya

A child begs for peace after a NATO air strike in Libya.

With feathers preened in fair array high above a foreign land
on raptors' beaks the rapists fly beneath St. Matthew's rising sun.
Their payloads plunge into the sand with like discrimination.
No, wings do not an angel make when fashioned by mere mortal hands,
nor does Jove's lightning know itself when hurled by the hand of man.
To dig wells of blood for water's sake does not make humanitarians.

Petrels, riders on the storm, are these humanitarians
who trample down the farmer's crops and plant munitions on his land,
sow their seeds, take their seats in the name of the brotherhood of man,
to watch them sprout and shrapnel fly to Phaethon's fast careening sun.
The peoples of the nations cry—the reins are slipped from youthful hands!
The flying chariot scorches sand; so much for discrimination.

For equality's sake his albatross eye practices discrimination.
Above the tawdriness of faces flies the humanitarian.
The cockpit hears no stranger's cry to trouble steady trigger hands;
it sees no fleeing footprints' scars upon the mutilated land.
Glinting steel fancies itself an image of th'unconquered sun
and shines beneficence upon the naked, sunburnt sons of man.

But equality has drawn the lines which separate now man from man
by sovereign borders well-defined and marked out with discrimination.
Great or small the nations all have equal share in the rising sun
under which their plaintive cry ascends to humanitarians,
“We are masters in our house. Ours are the cities and the land
which we tilled without your help. Ours the labours of our hands!”

Yet now a parliament of doves has taken it into its hands
to make and unmake at its whim the legal status of a man.
Its faith is written in the earth, in buried bodies in bomb-dug land:
“We can make a better world if we just kill with discrimination.”
Citizenship has been annulled by wise humanitarians—
for security's sake no country stands sovereign under its own sun.

Tragicomic, we call ourselves doves in flight against the sun
and then, with curdling screech-owl's cry, take council's vote by show of hands
that the only men who own their lives are the humanitarians.
There are now upon the earth two kinds of pitiable man:
one with no name to call himself, and the master of discrimination—
he whose flag-wrapped raptors fly above a passive, flagless land.

In a violated land, sun blotted by discrimination,
gravediggers throw up calloused hands to ask, “Who guards the rights of man
            from the humanitarians?”


R. Joseph Capet is a poet, playwright, and essayist from the West Coast whose work, in both English and Esperanto, has appeared in a variety of magazines on both sides of the Pacific, including decomP, Taj Mahal Review, and 'ITCH'.   When not teaching high school history, he currently serve as a poetry editor for P.Q. Leer.

He can be reached at: racecapet@gmail.com

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