Rennie McQuilkin's 'Child Of War'

Welcome to our new feature: CT Poet's Corner. First up, 'Child of War' by our newest poet laureate

Editor's note: Welcome to CT Poet's Corner, a monthly feature highlighting poetry by Connecticut authors.

As Connecticut's newest poet laureate, I welcome the opportunity to help further the cause of poetry in the state. My mission will be to help undo Public PT (Poetic Trepidation) and find ways of suggesting that "Poetry like bread is for everyone," that it is a delight to the ear, a joy to the heart, a feast for the mind, and a solace for the spirit. I look forward to helping spread the word that although "It is difficult to get the news from poetry, people die miserably every day for lack of what is found there." I want people to avoid that miserable death!

The way in which poetry can become a vital force in our lives was never clearer than during the days following 9/11, when so many of us turned to it for guidance. A similar role for poetry was evident not long ago in Windsor when several poets got together to read poems in support of the International Day of Peace. Here is one of the poems I read at that event. It is based on a photograph most of you have seen —- of a young child drowned in a futile attempt to find a land free from the ravages of war in the Near East.

Rennie McQuilkin, Poet Laureate Of Connecticut

CHILD OF WAR

They are fleeing

they are fleeing

they are fleeing

the stench of war,

the empty space

where their homes

once stood.

They are fleeing

with empty hearts

in boats too small

for the sea

of grief. They are

drowning

they are drowning.

Here is one

come ashore

at the edge

of the surf.

He is three,

he is tucked in,

knees folded,

hands together,

afloat in the womb.

He will not wake.

He is at peace,

the only peace

the world seems to

know how to make.

As the world descends into chaos, poets have a greater responsibility than ever to speak out against conditions that are becoming so intolerable the world must eventually be shocked into waging peace. Let us hope this shock of recognition doesn't require unimaginable devastation! The poets and youth of the world are in agreement. They must speak out loudly enough for world leaders to hear while there is still time.

In the meantime, how can we get on with our daily lives? I would like to offer a poem which demonstrates a sort of courage in the face of disaster.

AT THE UPRIGHT

You rode, devil-may-caring downhill

at 11, one knee balancing on the saddle

of your Schwinn, one leg straight back,

raucous as a jay, hands light

on the bars, considering release.

Back home you were stopped by a shot

in Life, July 28, 1941 – a girl your age,

mouth and eyes taut, home smoldering

behind her from a Blitzkrieg bomb.

Your eyes stung from the smoke, still do

seventy years later, so much more

of the same having hit home,

in spite of – no, because of which

you sit at your piano, the old upright,

hands still light and joyful,

playing the bars

of a song you hear from the spruce

outside your window, the notes

major and minor, of a warbler in its bower.

The bird answers you, you answer the bird.

As more and more of us turn to poetry as a way of survival, I'd like this monthly column to feature poems by writers who can help us live joyful lives despite the chaos surrounding us, poems that praise life, help us appreciate the ordinary miracles of every day, urge us to be more honest with ourselves, make us cry good tears and laugh our way to sanity. Contact me at antrimhouse@comcast.net.

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