you claim to know something of beauty…

by Sunsara Taylor

Revolutionary Worker #1254, October 10, 2004, posted at

You claim to know something of beauty
with your compassion for a great green lawn
stretched out wide and uniform...majestic and manicured, growing with permission
encircled--as you prefer all things of nature--by fences and concrete, regulated and neat
but around you the world is convulsing
the heavens raining death
heathens stealing breath
and the breathing are bedridden
heaving with headspinning
on your axis of evil
millions of people

and what have you to say to the children across the sea?
their beauty twisted
weak and withered, without water,
because they grow without permission
amid broken fences and busted concrete
the angry earth throws itself at their feet
because they are hungry
playing with sticks and stones and trouble
building castles out of rubble
finding beauty in the dust of what once was their homes.
They own with pride the feat in the soldiers' eyes behind the guns, inside the boots, beneath the helmets and the sneer--they own the fear and laugh over it
suppress the memories of their father's last words
Brag how they never even trembled, jab each others' skinny ribs, making fun and boasting--they fancy themselves men, now that all the real men are gone--they boast and laugh at death, because leaving here is itself an act of defiance.

you claim to know beauty as you swap pictures of torture
the shame pressed into her frame
free at last from your dungeons but even more afraid of release.
She was now a woman violated, no longer any good.
She crept in at night, quiet and afraid of the man who married her, ready for death at his hands but wanting to see her children just one last time.
She hid in her own home, counting the minutes till she had no home,
bracing for the beating with cold stone
when the men found her
the tears slid down her cheeks
never had she known such raw emotion, she felt naked
the men of her own village, the eyes that always looked through her
they paraded her through the streets
all the children came to watch
the women she went to school with
even her father
he looked her in the eye and told her she was beautiful
and then the whole town called out her name
broke and battered the spell of shame
the children let out a cheer
and together they celebrated
welcomed this woman home like she had never been before
they slaughtered three goats
played music and danced for
three days
they cherished this
furious victim
the pride of the village
their daughter and their future they cheered her
called her beautiful
do you remember this scene?

You claim to know something of beauty
but don't recognize the song of summer and love
the rhythms of hearts pumping blood, faster not for fear but because it might be their last
pumping fast, last chance before spilling, staining the earth,
tell me, what do you do as the bombs fall
as the humvees roll through blaring "leave town or die" as my son clutches a rifle, for his brother
as the buildings fall around you and the earth shakes with anger
do you hold your child's hand, try to comfort him back to innocence
do you cook an exquisite meal with a few dried herbs and your last hen
do you taste the sweat on your lover's flesh, cradle his head in your lap?
stay up to watch the sun beat back the night
do you close your eyes to dream or do you fight?
do you pray?
Tell me, how do you mark the days--when each beauty could be your last
I want to know, how do you choose?

You claim to know something of beauty as you snap pictures of mushroom clouds
send postcards of lynchings
write anthems of bombs bursting
and manicure your grass
covering the patterns of mass graves and murdered slaves
and all the death that scars our planet
and your band plays on
if this is what you know to be beautiful
if this is what you know to hold beauty
crawl back into the halls of history
with your icicle heart and criminal mind
fall down in the furnace of forever
let your body give off heat
and the flames shed some light

let your ashes spread from the skies over Baghdad
let it bring nutrients to the land
and we promise
i swear
on everything that i know to hold beauty
on the skies and the earth as it spins blue and green
of the heavens and stars and the breath of my child
we'll plant the msot beautiful field of wildflowers and free people
we'll sing from rooftops and pour old souls into tomorrow
and call forth beauty
i tell you
beyond the bounds you can fathom

we'll call forth beauty
i promise, surpass the dreams of our children

we'll call forth beauty, i swear to you
in a promise pressed in place by boots caked in mud
scraps of life, bits of blood
caked in dreams, stepped on but not disgraced
we'll call forth beauty that sends
spasms into space
and runs marathons in one place

we'll call forth beauty
with our beating hearts and breathing chests
our beauty will outlive you and out sing you
it will dance in warm rains
and saturate the air
so why should we care
about your grass?