W. S. Merwin once said that all poetry is political; Jean-Paul Sartre called for a littérature engagée, engaged in the politics, absurdities, and struggles of the human condition. From Whitman to Merwin, Prévert to Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg to Chuck D, Gil Scott-Heron to Reg E. Gaines, Baudelaire to Césaire, Guru to Solaar, poetry has long been engaged with some struggle. The best poetry (or any art for that matter) frames for us a way to deal with the difficult; sometimes poets find just the right words to express our outrage or shock. They speak in our silence, and use silence to speak. Some avoid rhyme in their efforts to reason, some eschew reason so that we may escape through their rhyme.
Muddled clichés aside, my own attempts to grapple with Boston (and Newtown and Aurora and Oak Creek and Kabul and Baghdad and a million other cities and lives) are still in process; being thunderstruck at the inaction of leaders and politicians, my own wordlessness still thumbs through Webster’s and the OED, looking for just the right utterance to break the silence. Others have already cleared their throats, already put pen to paper, already clackety-clacked on keyboards.
So it is with Margo Berdeshevsky, brilliant poet and brilliant photographer; an artist, whose voice sings true, of whom Sartre and Merwin would be proud. She is also a dear friend and kindred spirit, a “soul mate” in these days of increasing soullessness in our topsy-turvied world. I share with you a brief excerpt from her “Postcards to the Body Politic” and link you to the full poem, as well as to ma chère Margo giving voice to the weight. When, in troubled times, the politicos and the press fail to speak truth, to state the obvious, to ask the difficult questions, it is to the poets we must turn, and at this moment, to Margo:
Postcards to the Body Politic
But there’s more. First, I cannot write dear. I cannot call you dear. I am too deeply, deeply — and I have never believed in. Before. But now so much less. No. So much less. Dear illusion of dear. Dear I-could-not-write. You will not mind. You do not love.
Dear body. Dear if-my-right-hand. Dear how can you love only your own soul? Dear why would you feed only one eye? Not the hand. Not the belly. How can you love the head, not skin, not the water?
You make me cry. You make me sadder than women, sadder than men, even sadder than your —No. You, and your guns. Do you even love your hands? Can you love your mind? Body dangerous. I try to call you dear. Enraged at your arms, enraged at your desire, enraged at your eyes. If I am too angry to love you — what, what will we do?