The Night of the Bulldozers (Charleston, 3/18/03)

Poetry and politics can meet. “The Night of the Bulldozers” was written twelve years ago this evening, on a trip to Charleston SC, when the then US president announced that the attack against the then Iraqi dictator was about to begin. I keep bringing this to the top on March 18 because it remains so timely.

In Charleston it was a stormy night, the thunder and rain making it hard to hear the news broadcasts–a fitting prelude to a disastrous war. The next morning we went, with about a hundred others, to an anti-war demonstration in downtown Charleston. It was quite civil; I remember the demonstration leader going off to have a cup of coffee with the chief of police.

Every day we see the worsening devastation that occurs when “the big ones” take on the power to do as they wish with the lives of ordinary people. The “patient restorers” and “feeders of children” haven’t been able to make enough headway in the disrupted lands of what used to be the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.

The Night of the Bulldozers
(Charleston, 3/18/03)

In a room with rain on the roof boards
we wait for the shooting to start
it is not our own children who carry the arms
nor our own children against whom arms are carried

The man who holds his finger on the trigger
is adjusting the aim of his cannons this evening
is tuning the edge of his bombers’ wings
bringing his friends to heel in the palm of his hand

The people holding the bulldozers back from the houses
thought they had an agreement but a woman
among them yesterday kneeling was bulldozed
crushed on the sand by a man with his hand at the wheel

Over our roof sound thunderclaps or airplanes
the rain beating doesn’t let us know which
they could be resounding from the hands of the gods
or from the men who have their fingers on the bombs

A handful of big little boys strut their boots on the sand
their shiny toys gleam in the high sun
closer to each other down the main street they swagger
it is close to noon one minute short of noon

Others try to hold the bombers back with their bodies
to find out if the man with the biggest arms in his hands
will bulldoze his own into a valley carved in the sand
to pile on top of the others bulldozed there before

Through our roof with the rain on it sirens sound
police are chasing or ambulances racing
far away sirens will sound shrill and long in the night
of the bulldozers the night of the bombs

The men with the big toys bestride a narrow land
the moment nears in the dust of the sand
down the main street of the world they strut
hands poised on their overflowing holsters

We wait you knit we will not turn back the dial
will not let the voice of the man with the bombs in his heart
enter this old room over the radio music of the strings
over the voice of the dove mourning in the evening garden

The big ones who strut oh they never are struck down
by the thunderbolt of a god by the hands of the good
by the tearing apart of the heart
before the guns can speak

With raindrops on the roof in the streets
on the waves of the ocean
we make our peace as we can
peace with our own minds

There is no more to be done but to wait
for the killing which has not started to end
for the day of the patient restorers the feeders of children
to come once again once again

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About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
This entry was posted in History, International, Peace and War and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Night of the Bulldozers (Charleston, 3/18/03)

  1. Susan Tiernan says:

    Thank you Nathaniel. That was beautiful.

  2. Pingback: The Night of the Bulldozers (Charleston, 3/18/03) | progressivenetwork

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