Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
|The People of the Other Village
BY THOMAS LUX B. 1946
This is today’s Audio poem of the day on the Poetry Foundation website. If you go there, you can hear the author read the poem.
This is a response to war, a descriptive piece with images that evoke a personal response one would easily shut down while watching the evening news. It offers a clear picture of the absurdity of war without judgment.
“The people of the other village hate us
and would nail our hats
to our heads for refusing in their presence to remove them
or staple our hands to our foreheads for refusing to salute them
if we did not hurt them first: mail them packages of rats,...”
Listening, at first, I expected it would be a rant about the people of the other village and I was only drawn in by the images. Then, “if we did not hurt them first” shook me like a friend proposing we do a home invasion would, until I realized it was a joke. As the poet goes on, it sounds like a series of practical jokes and my emotions subside a bit. Then, again I am shaken as the things the villagers do to each other escalate, like war escalates. There is no happy ending to war.
As Americans, we look at how we helped Japan and Western Europe recover after the war and feel very good about all of that and pat ourselves on the back. We don’t look at what happened with Russia. We blame Russia. We are taught nothing in school that helps us understand what happened to the ally without whom Hitler may not have been defeated. I did not learn about the alliance with Russia until I was an adult. They sacrificed more than anyone in WWII and I wasn’t even taught that. In both high school and college, in the 1960’s, WWII was not taught where I was.
Even today, when Russia does something in response to our actions, we hear on the news what they did, but our provocation is never mentioned.
I think this poem makes clear just how all of that happens, succinctly and beautifully. I hope you will go to the Poetry Foundation website and read it for yourself.