Alan Dunnett

From his Civil War sequence

Instruction
 
And then I went to the elders who said,
Do not give up. It is hard but do not.
You will be tired. You will taste defeat
but you must go on. Learn from everything
 
that goes against you. Make your enemy
your friend although you eat dirt. Take yourself
right away from this chamber of echoes
where men are lost in complaint and entrapped.
 
 
Defeat
 
With dark winter coming on, we went back
to the reservation, those who were left,
(we had nothing but ourselves in bare feet,
no blankets, no food - the horses were gone)
silent children with thin arms and swollen
stomachs, women with dry breasts, men with guns
we were prepared to lay down. Our masters
took us in smiling, seeing we would serve.
 
Now please know that in this moon we are dogs
but every dog has his day. Let them drink.
Let them smoke cigars and put their feet up.
Do you think we will just forget this shame?
Let every single drop of blood be weighed.
There will be an accounting and meanwhile
we are fed and grow strong under the yoke.
When they sleep, they will get what they deserve.

Burning the Land
 
Following a retreat.
 
Then they started to burn the land. We looked
down at smoke crawling and sent a runner
by the safe, secret pathway to Kimble;
still he would not come. In the hour of need
 
he would not come but in being alone
we took strength; we thought harder, weighing up
how we might hold sway over our lives
as we looked down at the slow smoke
 
and men moving with their own dark purpose.
I said to Marie again: we'll end it,
no more living like this, I promise you.
We'll go home, have peace. That is right, the way
 
it should be but first I must do this. Men,
she said, in a small, still voice. Well, please God
you win your day. God is good. Where is God?
I asked. Look hard but you will not see Him.
 
He is in us or nowhere at all. Pigs
are cleaner than these fire-abusers.
I'm telling you, God speaks in my actions
and, if I do not act, God is nowhere
 
and I am nothing. We are in a place
that is cold and beyond the sun's long reach.
No one will help us. Men draw back and care
for themselves and that is their carelessness.
 
Our fathers fought for what we're losing.
For them, it was not easy, either. No
time is easy. Let us be strong. Let us
stand up for others and return to light.
 
Then the air was silent and the red bands
of sky held their place in deepening dusk.
Far below, there was drinking and feasting
and a child called twice and Marie went in.

 
In Chains
 
Defeat but the war is not over.
 
At this time, we became slaves. Our masters
were pleased since we agreed with everything.
We did as they said and life was easy
for them. They grew fat. Down below, we slept
 
with rats and found a kind of steadiness
in only thinking as they did, only
doing as they said
  but in dreams, Marie,
 
I am myself again. The children grow
each day and forget me... I will return.
 
In dreams, I remember captivity.
In Susa, I rusted in chains. Wet air
went to my chest in perpetuity
but I learnt patience unending, pursuit
of those men who did these things now and then.
 
I will return and you will forgive me
for the violence that has stamped our lives.
It will not be too late. I swear it. Love
was an incidental because business
 
came first. You know that will change. I swear it
though we're older by a day, by a year.
It is spring again
  and we should be free.
 
Each moment marks the face: blind, wrong moments
that carry death. The right moment will come
 
like an angel. I stand before its wing
and straighten my spine. The sun strikes my face.
Stand with me and break the spell of tyrants.
Chains can be broken and voices heard. Right
sweetens the air. Let us breathe and change the world.

Alan Dunnett © 2011