A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
We come to the garden because it is beautiful.
Arborvitae, hydrangea, anemone—
Even the names are beautiful.
The men who call themselves our leaders
Seem far away. We feel free to be kind,
To walk from here down the street,
Greeting our neighbors, stopping to give
A dollar to a ragged man sitting on the sidewalk.
Beauty begs us to be kind.
Can we believe in kindness the way we believe in rain?
Can we practice kindness until it becomes a habit,
A custom, a ritual of small acts?
If we step over the homeless man
On the sidewalk, then we can easily ignore
The child in Syria blown apart by our taxes
And our drone hovering over the garden
Where the wedding party waits
For the bride. A missile is launched
And everyone dies.
But such cruelty seems far away.
Here in the garden where virtue is easy
We avoid the cold calculus of blame:
Arborvitae, hydrangea, anemone
Beneath the wide August sky.
Note: According to an article by Tom Engelhardt published by The Nation, U.S. airstrikes have wiped out a total of eight wedding parties in Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan since 2001.
This poem was commissioned by City of Asylum Pittsburgh to be read at the Alphabet City Garden on August 4, 2018 and is included in American Ash by Michael Simms, copyright 2020, published by Ragged Sky Press.