Tending our last fires
we fail to acknowledge your greetings.
Don't write commandments
from your new steel god for us.
Don't demand peace treaties from the dead.
There's no one left to greet you in peace,
which is nowhere to be seen.
We lived and flourished before the onslaught of
English guns, French wine and influenza,
living in harmony side by side with the Deer People,
learning our oral history by heart.
We brought you tidings of innocence and daisies.
But you have your god and we have ours.
You have your past and we have ours.
Time is a river
blurred by the tears we gaze through.
But don't you ever
memorize a few lines of poetry, perhaps,
to restrain yourself from massacre?
Weren't you born of a woman?
Didn't you suckle the milk of longing
from your mother as we did?
Didn't you attach paper wings to your shoulders
to chase swallows as we did?
We brought you tidings of the Spring.
(Don't point your guns at us!)
We can exchange gifts, we can sing:
My people were here once, then they died here...
Chestnut trees hide their souls here.
My people will return in the air,
Take my motherland by the sword!
I refuse to sign a treaty between victim and killer.
I refuse to sign a bill of sale
that takes possession
of so much as one inch of my weed patch,
of so much as one inch of my cornfield
even if it's my last salutation to the sun!
As I wade into the river wrapped in my name only
I know I'm returning to my mother's bosom
so that you, white master, can enter your Age.
Enter your brutal statues of liberty over my corpse.
Engrave your iron crosses on my stony shadow,
for soon I will rise to the height of the song
sung by those multitudes suicided by their
dispersion through history
at a mass where our voices will soar like birds:
Here strangers won
over salt and sea mixed with clouds.
Here strangers won
over corn husks within us
as they laid down their cables for
lightning and electricity.
Here's where the grieving eagle
dived to his death.
Here's where strangers won over us
leaving us nothing for the New Age.
Here our bodies evaporate, cloud by cloud, into space.
Here our spirits glow, star by star, in the sky of song.
A long time will have to go by before our
present becomes our past, just like us.
We will face our death, but first
we'll defend the trees we wear.
We'll venerate the bell of night, the moon
hanging over our shacks.
We'll defend our leaping deer,
the clay of our jars, the feathers
in the wings of our last songs.
Soon you'll raise your world over ours,
blazing a trail from our graveyards to a satellite.
This is the Iron Age: distilled from a lump of coal,
champagne bubbling for the mighty!
There are dead and there are colonies.
There are dead and there are bulldozers.
There are dead and there are hospitals.
There are dead and there are radar screens
to observe the dead
as they die more than once in this life,
screens to observe the dead who live on after death
as well as those who die
to lift the earth above all that has died.
O white master, where are you taking my people
Into what abyss
is this robot bristling with aircraft carriers and jets
consigning the earth?
To what fathomless pit
will you descend?
It's your to decide.
A new Rome, a technological Sparta and an
ideology for the insane...
but we'd rather depart from an Age
our minds can't accept.
Once a people,
now we'd rather flock to the land of birds.
We'll take a peek at our homeland through stones,
glimpse it through openings in clouds,
through the speech of stars,
through the air suspended above lakes,
between soft tassel fringes in ears of corn.
We'll emerge from the flower of the grave.
We'll lean out of the poplar's leaves
of all that besieges you, O white man,
of all the dead who are still dying,
both those who live and those
who return to tell the tale.
Let's give the earth enough time to tell
the whole truth about your and us.
The whole truth about us.
The whole truth about you.
In rooms you build,
the dead are already asleep.
Over bridges you construct,
the dead are already passing.
There are dead who light up the night
and the dead who come at dawn
to drink your tea
as peaceful as on the day your
guns mowed them down.
O you who are guests in this place,
leave a few chairs empty
for your hosts to read out
the conditions for peace
in a treaty with the dead.
Translated by Sargon