Alan Dunnett

From his Civil War sequence


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.


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