Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How many moments of silence can you endure?

Someone emailed this poem to me today, and I hadn't come across it before. Therefore, I am posting it for others who haven't read it. It was written and delivered on September 11, 2002 by Emmanuel Ortiz, a third-generation Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American community organizer and spoken word poet residing in Minneapolis:

A moment of silence

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honour of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon last September 11th. I would also like to ask you To offer
up a moment of silence For all of those who have been harassed,
imprisoned, disappeared,
tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, For the
victims in both Afghanistan and the US

And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands
of US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation. Six months of
silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who
have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year
US embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country. Nine
months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Where death
rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and
skin And the survivors went on as if alive. A year of silence for the
millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who
know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives'
bones buried in it, their babies born of it. A year of silence for
the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war ....
ssssshhhhh.... Say nothing ... we don't want them to learn that they
are dead. Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up
and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador ...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years. 45
seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas 25 years of
silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far
deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky. There
will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore
trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west...

100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of
right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek,
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears. Names now reduced to innocuous
magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ...

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be.
Not like it always has been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written. And
if this is a 9/11 poem, then: This is a September 11th poem for
Chile, 1971. This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South
Africa, 1977. This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at
Attica Prison, New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes This
is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told The 110 stories
that history chose not to write in textbooks The 110 stories that
CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored. This is a poem
for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of
Taco Bell, And pay the workers for wages lost. Tear down the liquor
stores, The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all... Don't cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we, Tonight we
will keep right on singing... For our dead.



microdot said...

great piece! I started to write about 9/11 a few times and ran into a brick wall of my own experience and my anger at the way it was used to destroy America and plunge us into a medieval futuristic nightmare of iirrational unending war.
I am convinced that the experience of watching the towers get hit by the planes and fall over and over and over again has become something like pornogrpahy.

Village Green said...

I read your blog entry on this subject and suggest that anyone reading this go over to The Brainpolice blog and check it out: