Running Down the Mountain

At the tip top
Mountain top
The last ridge skyward
And the sun a ball
Above the tips
Of white mountains.
And from this point
The steep falling away of rock
Down to the valley floor
Already now in shadow.

The sky’s too empty.
Home, feet
The earth’s our mother

Jump on the precipitous glacier
A summer snowslide slipping
Sliding down a thousand feet
Off like an otter
A curve of motion
And now a talus slope
Straight down and down
With fine rock moving
Mountain moving
Rock river rumbling
Rock walker ride
A wave of rock
A waterfall of rock roaring
Run with the flow, and run toward the edge
Leap from the sliding talus
And grasp the mountain immovable.
Granite cliffs leading down
Down to mountain meadows steeply sloping
Grass and flowers
Dall sheep grazing
Down, O down.

Feet run their way
Arms are wings
The mountain sings.

Down through the evening dark
Of fir and pine
With golden streams
Of setting sun
Down, down
On thick moss skimming
Into shadows
Of the valley.

A night bird calls
The creek sings welcome home.
Look up,
The mountain peak is scarlet in the dusk
And there’s the evening star.
Now light the fire.

~ Sandy Cameron

Why I Write

Marvin Gaye made
an important record
in the 1970’s called
“What’s Going On?”
I write to figure out
what’s going on.

The hopes for which
ordinary men and women
fought for,
and sometimes died for,
in the Second World War
have been betrayed
by the business elite
that has taken over
our province and
our country.
I write to expose this betrayal.

I write to reject their definition
of who I am
to find my voice
to share my story
in the community of
those who are
making new roads
drawing new maps
building a home
where the bottom line
is justice.

I write to forgive,
to reconcile and to include,
as Robert Rich wrote
in his story
“Somewhere, My Love” (1)
in which he turns back
to hold the hand
of a dying person.
There is more truth in
Robert’s story than
in all the weapons
of mass destruction
owned by the American Empire,
in all the spin-doctoring
of politicians,
or in all the
high-tech expertise
of medical entrepreneurs.

Tell your stories, friends.
Give them away
where they are needed.
Our stories
are like water
in the desert,
like a map
that will bring us home.

~ Sandy Cameron

* * *

(1) “Somewhere, My Love,” by Robert R. Rich, Carnegie Newsletter, July 1, 2002.

We Need a New Map

The map we inherited
isn’t any good.
The old roads mislead
and the landscape keeps changing.
People are confused
and drift from place to place,
clothes scorched by fire
eyes red with smoke.

The old map tells us
to look for gold
in the city,
so we go to the city
and find the garbage dump.
We need a new map
with new roads
and a new destination.

Some people fear a new map, and
they cling to the old one
like flies to fly paper.
But the old map leads to pepper spray
tear gas
and the end of the world.

I don’t have a new map,
so I write stories.
The stories draw lines
dig holes
and above all, remember.
“Let people know who we are;
tell them what happened to us,”
an old Mayan woman
in Guatemala said. (1)
“I seem not to speak
the official language, “ the poet
Adrianne Rich said, so
she created an unofficial language,
the language of the heart.

Drawing a new map
is like singing.
Voicehandler asked Loon
why she talked so much
and Loon replied,
“Well, Sir, I’m not just talking
to my own ears.
The spirit-beings tell me
they have no place to live.
That’s the reason I keep talking.” (2)
Loon sings the sacred
into the world
and creates a new map.

Sing your song, friend.
Tell your story.
The map we inherited
isn’t any good.
The old roads mislead.
We need a new map.

~ Sandy Cameron

* * *

(1)   A Beauty That Hurts—Life and Death in Guatemala, by George Lovell, Between The Lines, 2000.

(2)  A Story as Sharp as a Knife—The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World, by Robert Bringhurst, Douglas and MacIntyre, 1999.

Living Is A Matter Of Hope

Dedicated to all those fighting the atrocious violence of Gordon Campbell and his government driven by the ideology of wealth and power for a few and increasing poverty for many.

* * *

On April 7, 1945,
allied armies approached
the Buchenwald concentration camp
in Germany.
Prisoners could hear the American guns, and
they hoped, oh, how they hoped.
Then the SS decided to move
five thousand men from the camp –
five thousand skeletons –
to hide them perhaps,
to kill them,
these ghosts that bore witness
to holocaust.
So began a twenty-one day nightmare –
fifty freight cars
one hundred men to a car
wandering aimlessly in Europe.

No hope now.
Starving, delirious men
shared a few potatoes
a bit of bread.
Sometimes the train
sat at a siding for days,
suspended between life and death.
About two men died
in each car every day, and
the dead were left beside the track.
Some men went mad
and pounded their heads
against the wooden walls.
Others, delirious with fever,
screamed for water.
The SS hit them with clubs
to restore quiet.
Then an SS officer
appeared at the top
of an open car,
his face contorted with hatred.
He fired his rifle
into the car
as though killing others
would kill his inner torment.
One prisoner was shot through the head,
and his blood and brains
splattered on those around him.
In spite of themselves, the others
were glad it wasn’t them.
They thought of the extra space
they would have
when the body was removed,
and they mourned their selfish thoughts
along with their dead comrade.

So time passed.
Men died of dysentery, exhaustion
and despair.
The world had become absurd.
On April 26,
as one more lay dying,
three of his brothers
from the Franciscan order
sat in silence beside him.
Slowly, as water trickles
from a hidden spring,
a song arose among them.
They sang the Canticle of Brother Sun,
written by Saint Francis,
and their voices touched the hearts
of the remaining three thousand prisoners.
“Glory…for the gift of your creation
for our brother the sun
for our sister the moon…”

They sang like
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego
in the fiery furnace,
and like Nazim Hikmet,
the Turkish poet
who spent many years in jail
because he loved justice, and
who wrote while in prison:
“Living is a matter of hope, my love.
Living is a serious business,
like loving you.”

~ Sandy Cameron