Winter, 2003

Eugene Ruggles

Four Poems


To The World's People After This War

          "They would love to see me dead, to say:
            He belongs to us, he is ours."
                                              --Mahmoud Darwish

                 --for Eqbal Ahmad, 1934 to 1999

After this massacre, 
we will drop the smallest body bags ever made 
into Baghdad, 
they will be made of black rubber 
with zippers like those we filled in Vietnam, 
they will be from one to four feet long, 
for the last mothers alive in Baghdad. 
They will drift down as thousands of black leaves, 
after our missiles have burned through water and skin .
We will try to drop them before the world can see 
the remains these last mothers alive in Baghdad 
will carry from our craters of sand 
in their broken arms the rest of their lives. 

Do you still see the young Vietnamese girl
running naked from Hanoi,
=screaming with horror with her back on fire with Napalm;
her sisters running toward her from Baghdad.

Yes, we have seen to the future of Iraq--
these smallest body bags ever made
if rolled up tight enough,
can even fit inside the womb.

We cannot remove our government of wide graves
by ourselves. We will need your help
to pull us back from the desert of quicksand
beneath their great fleet of knives on fire,
to heal we will need your help
with the impeachment and the trial
of war crimes,
with the prison to be built with light. In light.
We will need your help
to lift these tears of blood from us after Iraq.

This is what we have grown for you.
This is what this Empire eats.

                    September, 2003
                    Eugene Ruggles

Waiting For The Boys

"Why tell what hurts?
You carried it, my boy, so brave, so far."
                                     --William Stafford

      --for Don Emblen

After three years back east my son Benjamin's two sons
are arriving this evening, learning the land by train.
They are five and three years old.

There is the dark oil war off in the distance,
today I will not listen to the distance
growing smaller.

We have been cooking grains, baking bread, pies and cakes all day
for this evening.
For years.

A black friend has brought over most of her garden
for the dinner and there is this morning's catch
of salmon from Bodega Bay!

The evening is opening around us.
Benjamin has gone out for more firewood.
For now, there is enough light from my friend's voice.

Waiting for the boys to arrive,
two fathers are setting the simple wooden ancient table
before the fire breaking, the reflections from the table as from water.
After these three years I've never been more alive since the morning I was born.

                    Father's Day, 2003
                    Eugene Ruggles

The Stairs in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957   

Forty years ago today,
nine children were climbing
the longest stairs of hate
they would ever see, to enter
Little Rock Central High School.
The tall white crowd around them
shouting, "Give us one
of the nigger kids to hang,"
their faces lunging forward
through the heat,
"and we'll let the others go."

They were six girls and three boys,
the white dress of the first girl
clung to her with spit,
she was wiping it from her face
without tears,
the new books were torn
from their hands and ripped apart,
the screaming went on rising before them.
The stairs above them
kept flowing toward their bodies
through the heat,
light was breaking like glass on the steps,
another light broke around them.

They were climbing over hate
with a courage we had never seen.
They were leaving Eisenhower's paratroopers
across the street in the shade
and Brown vs Board of Education
with Thurgood Marshall in Topeka, Kansas
behind them. And they were
the first nine witnesses,
turning the terror in their backs to us.

Our Last Christmas Morning, 2002

     " have resisted the wave of the cruel."
                                             --Pablo Neruda
               from a Spanish Civil War poem

             --for Kathy Kelly
                   Voices in the Wilderness

For the death squad of two
in the Oval Office,
I send two priceless works against Greed and Hate;
I deliver to them Thich Nhat Hahn and the Dalai Lama.

The day is rising before my grandchildren wake,
their eyelids have never known American fire beneath them
as children in the Middle East have known all their lives.
To this day, twelve years of genocidal sanctions are not enough death.

This day we hold out as a simple gift
to the Iraqi people will never happen again.
For years we have been stalking peace in the Middle East.
By spring, we will never see most of these thin Iraqi children alive again.

There is no light coming from our skin.
By seven-thirty a.m.,  this last Christmas Day before war,  has ended.

               December 25, 2002
               --Eugene Ruggles