Today is not a Good Day for War - A Review
Irene Murphy Lewis, August 15, 2005
A remarkable achievement occurs when political poetry, protest poetry, poetry that deals with the raw events of contemporary history, also survives as art. –Barry Spacks on Krieger’s poetry
David Krieger’s Today is Not a Good Day for War, winner of the 2005 Peace Writing Award from the Omni Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology, speaks to us with care and hope, yes, but also with breath-taking honesty. Krieger’s collection of poems spans the time period since the Vietnam War, and is a call out to us to dream, to believe. Here are the last three stanzas of his poem, “Dreams:”
If you can dream peace,
can you make young men, boys really,
disobey the generals and lay down their arms?
Yes, it’s unlikely, but someone has to dream
of making the leaves tremble, the rivers swell,
the tides move, and the young men
find better uses for their only lives. (82)
Krieger makes us understand that it is up to us to make the change, to make the difference – the heads of state will not.
Krieger, who is founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation since 1982, is on the front line of this revolutionary concept. He reminds us in his article, Hiroshima, America and Humanity’s Future, that this year is the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima. And yet August 6 has come and gone with little recognition of the atrocity from Americans as a whole. In a challenging note he declares:
We have a choice, and where there is choice there is hope. If we do nothing, we will remain on the path of universal death. If we choose to change the world, it is within our power to do so. Hiroshima is our past; it doesn’t need to be our future.
Krieger dedicates this book to “the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are the ambassadors of the Nuclear Age.” While in Japan, Krieger met Shoji Showada, “a survivor who is quiet, reserved and yet a powerful individual working for a world free of nuclear weapons.” He dedicated this poem to him:”
Forgive Me, Mother
He stayed home from school that day
with a burning fever.
After the bomb, the young boy
awakened beneath the rubble of his room.
He could hear his mother’s cries,
still trapped within the fallen house.
He struggled to free her, but he lacked
A fire raged toward them,
and many people hurried past.
Frightened and dazed, they would not stop
to help him free his mother.
He could hear her voice from the rubble.
The voice was soft but firm.
“You must run and save yourself,”
she told him. “You must go.”
“Forgive me,” he said, bowing,
“Forgive me, Mother”
He did as his mother wished.
That was long ago, in 1945.
The boy has long been a man, a good man.
Yet he still runs from those flames. (18, 19)
When I read Shoji’s story, I could not help but weep. Krieger has a way of bringing us into the truth, into the pain. But he also has a way of reminding us of:
What is Holy
What is holy is not to walk on water.
What is holy is to walk on earth
one step at a time.
What is holy is not silence.
It is the sound of wind through the leaves,
the sound of birds, of breathing, of voice.
What is holy is not purple robes.
What is holy is what is natural,
naked and unadorned.
What is holy is truth, simple truth,
and the willingness to seek it and speak it.
What is holy is not a cause, not an “ism.”
What is holy are our connections to one another. (55)
In Copenhagen recently I had a holy connection like that of which Krieger speaks. A young man from Afghanistan served me tea. I realized he was in Denmark due to our bombings. Right then, I apologized, and for both of us it was a breath-taking moment.
“How are we to change?” You ask. Krieger replies, “We can begin with finding our sorrow (…) with recognizing the suffering we have caused and are causing still. We can begin with apologies and forgiveness.”
Thank you, David Krieger!
David Krieger, founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, lectures throughout the world on issues of peace, war, international law and the need to end nuclear weapons, and often reads his poetry. Among his other books: Peace 100 Ideas; Hope in a Dark Time; Reflections on Humanity’s Future; The Poetry of Peace; and Choose Hope: Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age. (www.wagingpeace.org)