Poetry

April 22, 2019 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

CC photo

 

By

Brian Glaser

 

 

 

The Invisible Question

 

 

Mendez v. Westminster

 

 

Lies—

some writers are openly proud

of their ability to tell them—

 

may a strong wind blow them away,

ashes on the Mediterranean Sea.

 

Students go to school

to escape from ubiquitous lies—

 

some say to use language is to lie;

each green leaf is as different from every other

as a star from a galaxy.

 

And the imagination,

the source of all our dreams,

may be amoral.

 

With all these forces arrayed against it, perhaps

it is a wonder

that the truth survives.

 

The truth is a relative concept, in fact,

it occurs to me upon reflection—

 

we need enough of it

to keep goodness and beauty nearby.

 

It is when they go missing

that it is time for a trial—

 

time for a jury of school-aged children,

some of them wishing

 

with a passion to testify,

 

a passion

like earthrise in the Arctic—

 

the necessity of learning

from what has never been said.

 

 

 

Mendez v. Westminster – Gonzalo Mendez in the 1940s sued an Orange County school district which segregated students because of the color of their skin. The rationale for the segregation was that it would help students to learn English.

 

 

 

 

 

Sundown In Orange

 

 

1.

There is no beginning—

the roads are still talking to you, asking

you the way.

 

So what is yours?—

 

your skin is made of glass;

it burns sometimes—

 

You are climbing the face

of and yet—

 

leave your quickdraws,

 

the cloud at the summit—

breath of the water, waiting—

 

where do you see this from, if not the midst

of your own life?

 

 

2.

First, do no harm—

harm to whom?

 

What if you were innocent

of the damage wrought by your politics—

 

if what mattered were your intentions alone

and the force that you were?

 

The American middle class

is terrified

of financial disaster—

 

and traitors, radicals:

though history moves like the plates of the earth.

 

 

3.

When you wake in the winter cold,

you doubt that goodness—

 

when the nurse calls us in—

 

we talk to the portrait

of the one

 

who does good by accident.

 

So—for reparations—we don’t have

the expertise we need

 

in which children stole how much from whom,

in why

 

life is too brief for the whole arc

of morality on earth.

 

 

4.

Justice is volcanic,

poetry erodes.

 

One creates heights, one creates depths.

 

Looking deeply into someone’s eyes—

a more vertiginous sight,

 

we should all have someone with whom

to share

that human vista.

 

 

 

Sundown in Orange – Orange, California was a sundown town through the 1950s. This meant black people were unwelcome at night.

Chapman University in those years shared with the Orange police photos of its students so they wouldn’t be harassed.

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Glaser

Brian Glaser has published a book of poems, The Sacred Heart, and many essays on poetry and poetics. He is an assistant professor of English at Chapman University in Orange, California.

Editor review

1 Comment

  1. DT April 25, at 03:03

    Beautiful poems Brian!

    Reply

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