Who Is Listening? (3)
Making PeaceAnd so, this poet reminds us that peace trades on justice. Peace cannot lead but must follow justice into the world. She hopes to persuade us that speaking and acting justly is pre-figurative, that peace might take up residence in the interstices - the "long pauses ..." - that speaking and acting in such a way could establish (as we talked less and perhaps listened a bit more). And she reminds us that ways of speaking and acting justly, of precisely the sort that might open space for peace, must themselves crystallize into more enduring practices and institutions. Finally, she reminds us that none of this will happen overnight, but only incrementally, "stanza by stanza." Since that is the case, time is wasting.
by Denise Levertov
A voice from the dark called out,
'The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.'
But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can't be imagined before it is made,
can't be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
A feeling towards it
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light - facets
of the forming crystal.
All that may appear naive. I don't really think so. Why? Because speaking and acting justly hardly means that we sidestep conflict, it simply means that we renounce violence. The discovery that one could insert a wedge between resistance and violence, rightly I think, has been called "the most important political discovery of the twentieth century." And those who agree in that assessment are realists. They are realists about conflict, about the difficulties of treating conflict as a political rather than a military problem, and about the obstacles to institutionalizing non-violent, political decision-making arrangements (read democracy).
* From: Denise Levertov. Making Peace. Edited, with an Introduction by Peggy Rosenthal. New Directions, 2006. page 58.