Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

This is not a post about Christmas. It is a song of sorts, though, a September song in three parts.

Part 1
And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

And the LORD said unto Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?” And he said, “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

And the Lord said, “What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:8-10)

Part 2
Thy Brother’s Blood
by Robert H. Brague

A poet (I forget his name) spoke
at the second inauguration
of little Billy Blythe of Hope, Arkansas,
whom the world knows as William Jefferson Clinton,
and let me just state here for the record
in this year of our Lord two thousand four
that many people would like to forget
the name William Jefferson Clinton,
many people wish his smiling face
would disappear from our national consciousness
or, to be more accurate,
that it had never appeared there in the first place,
but thanks to the wonders of modern technology
and the incessant, arrogant media,
the relentless, pontificating media,
who know with perfect knowledge
what products we should buy
and what entertainments we should enjoy
and whom we should admire
and what thoughts we should think
and do not hesitate to tell us at every opportunity,
we cannot, we are stuck with him
and his power-hungry wife,
but I digress.

I remember the poet’s name: Miller Williams.
He mentioned “the anonymous dead”
and I did not get a warm fuzzy feeling,
I did not get all cheery and hopeful,
I did not feel the way I felt when Maya Angelou,
the unforgettable Maya Angelou, urged us all
four years earlier to say, with hope,
“Good morning,”
I did not feel that way at all.

I have seen the skulls and skeletons
beneath the subways of Paris,
there in the catacombs, piles and piles
of anonymous dead
(though they are not anonymous),
photographed in living color
and published in Smithsonian magazine;

I have read of the mass graves
in Iraq and in the former Yugoslavia;
I have read of Sudan and Rwanda,
where they didn’t even bother to dig graves;
I have read of the Mekong Delta and the Hanoi Hilton;
I have read of Chosin Reservoir and Pork Chop Hill;
I have seen old newsreel footage,
black and white and grainy,
of soldiers standing before the opened oven doors
at Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Treblinka;
I have seen the charred and broken remains
of what once were human bodies
(and they are not anonymous);
I have read of the Bulge and the beaches of Normandy,
Utah and Omaha and Pointe-du-Hoc,
I have read of Okinawa and Guadalcanal;
I have read of Iwo Jima and the death march on Bataan;
I have read of the Marne and the Argonne Forest;
I have read of Gettysburg and Antietam,
of Shiloh and Chickamauga;
I have read of Valley Forge;
I have walked through rows and rows of graves
at Arlington National Cemetery;
and one sunny September morning
in the year of our Lord two thousand one
I watched with my own eyes
on live television
as the second plane
hit the second tower;
I watched both buildings fall.

Make no mistake,
these common, ordinary people,
these so-called anonymous dead
(though they are not anonymous)
who have come to include
office workers in lower Manhattan
and commuters on trains in Madrid
and schoolchildren in Chechnya,
and millions upon millions
of aborted American babies,
they are not anonymous,
and they are not silent.

Part 3
An angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand. (Revelation 8:3-4)


  1. The part about the incense reminded me of the Mormon belief that god is a person--a white, male person--who is about six feet tall. This, of course, would mean that he could smell things, and that, by implication, some smells would please him more than other smells. Personally, I'm not fond of incense, but then burning sulfur isn't really my thing either. So it is that life after death is much like life before death, I suppose, in that we can't always get exactly what we want,

  2. actually snow, he is 6 feet one and a half inches tall><><><white, male, very sensative with feelings that could be hurt easily, roman nose that works very well, a dog lover, and a word about all those dead thar bob talks about.,.,,if i could comprehend that at all, i would hardly think about it

  3. Putz, I'll take your word for it. You didn't mention that he also has a violent temper, but it would appear so.

  4. Snow and Putz, I suppose you both think my post is strange. Maybe it's me, but I think your comments are strange.

    But I was taught that it's the thought that counts, so thanks for dropping by....

  5. Wow. Very profound and intense. Thank you.

  6. "I think your comments are strange."

    Ah, but then YOU are mentally balanced.

  7. Thank you, Rosezilla.

    Snow, we are all legends in our own minds. But my mother used to quote an old Quaker saying: "Everyone is crazy but me and thee, and even thee is a little bit crazy." Words to live by! I hope you know you are always welcome on this blog, as I feel welcome on yours.

  8. A friend once said: " You'd think, wouldn't you, that mankind would have said, after the first war, 'Gosh, that wasn't a very good thing at all, was it?' and not do it again."

  9. Oh, Rhymes, I read this comment--your last one to me. I just didn't comment on your comment about my comment about your comment about my comment about your post, my friend, because I feared an infinite regress into our psyches, and who knows where that could end? Besides, I had to go write a letter to Costco.

  10. Oh, my! How powerful! You continue to amaze me.