why i walk

i walk because
when i sit my thoughts go nowhere
they circle around and around
like flies to a carcass
questions flitting from one answer to the next
never landing on anything
never reaching a conclusion

when i walk they move with me
they reach somewhere
get settled

settled,
they leave me
my mind clears once again
the incessant barking to figure it out
questions that never leave
they stop

Dulce et Decorum Est

Today is Armistice Day. On November 11th, 1918, the world came together in the realization that war is so horrific it must be ended immediately, and the armistice signed in France signified an end to World War I – the “war to end all wars.”

At the time, the bloodshed of WWI marked a massive departure from the wars that came before. With the rise of machine guns came the horrifying ability to wipe out entire generations of young men in a single attack.  Since then, of course, the killing power of the world’s weaponry has only increased exponentially.

Today is a day of peace. We don’t even know a world without horrible death machines. Is it really progress to continually invent more efficient ways to kill each other?

Please take a minute to read (or listen to a reading of) this brilliant poem by Wilfred Owen, a poet and soldier in the first World War. Makes me cry every time!

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

*Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori means “It is sweet and right to die for one’s country.” These are the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace).

Solidarity with the Sun or a Universal Deceleration

I was walking through a sculpture garden on my way to class

on a cold October morning in Baltimore, worrying

about tomorrow when I looked up and realized it was fall.

The leaves had begun to redden and turn and surely

this had happened overnight because how could I have missed

this metamorphosis. Some trees had amber leaves like the tea

my dad loved from England, others orange as my mom’s hair,

but none clung to their green and I halted. Some things sneak up

on you, yet all around me the flowers were wilting and

the trees were wasting until there was no beauty left at all

and just yesterday was my little brother’s birthday – I thought

he was turning six but actually he became eight years old just like that.

– 

I remember a sunny winter day in Madrid

wandering through El Retiro, where a big man blew bigger

bubbles with two great wands and small children danced

trying to catch them. I smiled in the Sabatini Gardens

at nightfall, touched by the way the moon shone no matter where she was

and even though she knew she had to go so soon. I blinked

into Barcelona and “Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus” seared across

La Sagrada’s spires, which soared so high one could spend a lifetime

staring skyward and still never truly see it’s zenith.

– 

Down below, I wandered through the Fiery Fields under Naples

and Pompeii, in underground caverns that sustained the ancients

with yellow tuff, a volcanic ash from the explosive past

of Vesuvius, that morphed under pressure like diamonds into

life-giving sandstone and gave way to sunken reservoirs.

 –

I resurfaced after crossing the Adriatic, through Albania

and into Thessaloniki, where I rose like the White Tower

and scaled its spirals till spring spilled down to shower the steeples,

slickening them so I slipped and thought for sure I would sink,

but instead I was transported to the twin tower in Istanbul,

and there I saw the flowers sweep across the hills like wildfire.

 –

I tore through Turkey, spanned the –stans and cruised across the Caspian

till Zhengzhou, China, to the Shaolin Monastery in Mount Song

where I summoned my own Shaolin, Staten Island, and Shakti,

the yoga center where I meditated in the summertime, listening

to shrill chirps of the crickets and the mournful howls of the wind,

who rattled the wood-paneled windows, as if to remind me

to stop and smell the incense. I awoke in California, where

my mom asked me never to go because I might like it too much

and never come back, since I always say I can’t stand the seasons,

those bitter New York winters, and maybe I should stay

where it’s sunny all the time and things don’t seem to change.

But then just think of all the colors I would lose; static

blinds us to the beauty of difference. The sun may struggle

to rise, but the moon lingers for just a bit longer,

and truly time wouldn’t seem to be going anywhere

at all if I only stopped to look more often.