I was at first somewhat astonished,
Time stepped out of the picture and faded into the distance,
A bit player whose part was done in an epic timeless,
Where bare truths about the soul of a land are laid,
Flayed of all pomp and circumstance and artifices of finery.
The honest opinions of one in a land new and unknown,
Waiting in dusty tomes a century and more on the page,
Speaking of first impressions and speaking truth without mercy nor spite,
With the clarity of seeing everything hidden beneath,
Rivaled only by modern miracles like MRI's or x-rays,
Hits your preconceptions of culture between the eyes.
"We worship wealth here,
For we came without it and without its respect,
The downtrodden cast-offs of old lands all,
In waves and droves and sea-sick jubilation of landfall,
Only to emulate the visible qualities of our oppressors,
Seeking what we perceived as their strengths without true knowledge."
In a land where the clocks must be punched,
Where work rules every aspect of our worth and ability to exist,
How do we have a moment for the grace of souls malnourished,
Do we ever feed the worth of our souls when our mouths are our rulers,
Still slaves to our bellies which can translate only gold into food and shelter?
It is of small wonder that the sword that threatens our necks comes from "on high" -
A curved scimitar swinging with the weight of yellow metal,
Hiding at its core a hollow vacuum - a void where a graceful spirit should be,
If it were filled with what belongs there it would melt into a ploughshare,
Or perhaps into the bricks that could hide our heads from hurricanes and tornadoes,
Or the hearth that used to warm our bread.
The least among us are our true mirror,
The clearest glass we shall ever gaze into,
And if the bones of them are prodding their flesh,
Their frost bite of lack of shelter and bellies full of nothing but air,
Their pitiful rags wrapped 'round the vision of skulls that is the source of our fear,
It will pull that sword of gold upon us all to cleave our necks as surely as the clocks tick.
How many among us would give even the illusion of a five dollar bill to their pantry,
If it had to be given without the craven illusion of a tax deduction?
This world is not and never has been divided by arbitrary lines on a plastic globe,
Not one of marble nor glass nor clay nor wood nor paper,
No matter how well-drawn or sculpted its representation of Earth,
For what we put into the sky or the water or the land travels freely,
Not one law can arrest its progress or its consequence.
Our souls and our fates are as intertwined as is the atmosphere or the waterways,
Filled with underground rivers that carry every deed and action throughout the whole,
A permeated brew stirring by convection and gravity unseen yet ever-present.
What we do with the "least" among us we will drink and eat,
Regardless of whether we know it or acknowledge it or remain ignorant of it,
It will fuel poisonous growth or it will be clean and gentle with us,
As we reap we will sow is the pertinent verse.
Fires do not burn without fuel,
Fuel made of greedy intent or even plain ignorance,
And if violence and harm do not treat us as harshly as flames in the end,
It will be simply because we gave them no cause to burn.
In the end it all congeals into that basic truth -
Which crosses all those artificial and arbitrary lines on globes and maps.
We made a play for "freedom" here,
A crop which only thrives when shared and tended well.
By: Daniel A. Stafford
This was inspired by reading the early newspaper articles written by Jose Martì when he first came to live in New York in the 1870's. He wrote for New York and multiple Latin American newspapers his observations on the emerging culture in the United States - which to this day values work and wealth but forgets the values of spiritual nourishment, charity, and the human need for self-worth not always gained through financial acumen. It shows in the way we drive ourselves nearly beyond our physical limits for work and career, the way we look down on vacations long enough to truly rest the soul and body, and the way we are driven to work at the expense of family and community. When one steps back and takes a fresh look, we are tragically out of balance. The fact that people in this country or any other go without food and shelter is a clear reflection of how such scales are tilted. What happens when things are unbalanced for too long and stretched too far away from the balance point?