O What Do We Know About Peace?

With a nod to the late, great W. H. Auden,
and in tribute to a father’s gentle courage:


Some say it is a fragrant lily
Opened in the morning sun.
Some think it grows in heather fields
Where yearling mule deer run.
I asked the politicians
If its measures might increase,
But they just sent more troops to war.
O what do we know about peace?

Does it taste like dates and honey,
Or like sausages on sticks?
Can you pay for it with money,
Or build it a house with bricks?
Does it make us feel protected,
Like a blanket made of fleece?
Must its pockets be inspected?
O what do we know about peace?

Whenever people disagree,
They claim they’re striving for it.
When sipping from a cup of tea,
Most folks will just ignore it;
The great philosophers have said
We’ll know it when we see it,
And surely as our blood is red,
We ought to fight to free it.

Does it soar like an osprey on steroids,
Or light up the night like the moon?
Could we grab it by flexing our deltoids,
Or float to it on a pontoon?
Does it live all alone on an island,
Or blow where it will on the breeze?
Would it last for a week without broadband?
O what do we know about peace?

I scoured beneath the kitchen sink,
And checked the freezer, too;
I tried to find the missing link
By emptying my shoe.
I followed all the pirates’ maps
That pointed to their loot,
But everywhere X marked the spot,
Its chest was destitute.

Will it come for a visit on Tuesday,
As I’m getting out of the bath?
Will I see it drive by on the freeway,
Or picking up stones in my path?
Does it come with a license to carry?
Can it truly cause terror to cease?
Is a lack of it hereditary?
O what do we know about peace?

When our children are witness to bloodshed,
And murder’s a matter of course,
Should we strap on a nuclear warhead,
Or say: mais nous avons des fleurs*?
Although hate multiplies like a cancer,
et partout, le méchant existe**,
Can’t we comfort a child with an answer?
O what do we know about peace?

*but we have flowers
**and everywhere, the bad guy exists


4 thoughts on “O What Do We Know About Peace?

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Jan. I think you hit the nail on the head. The father speaking with his young son after the November Paris attacks in the video above is an enlightened soul who could perceive peace in the face of such devastation, exactly because he had found it in the part of himself that could stand up to any “threat” with the grace and courage only known to the non-violent, in order to promote his child’s wellbeing. Yes, his beautiful, wise triumph on behalf of humanity in that moment has moved me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced — even in revisiting it now, the floodgates have been opened… again!


  2. Inspired formatting—a poem that doesn’t tell, but shows that the only way to shake up the status quo is by asking questions, questions and more questions! It also shows that peace can’t be defined. Matters of the heart are felt; they defy description.
    But oh … that beautiful metaphor in the video, ‘we have flowers’, speaking to the child’s powerful relationship with nature that hasn’t yet been overlaid by education. With a father like that, it’s unlikely to. This man is a hero!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. Matters of the heart defy description, which is probably why I was compelled to model the format on W. H. Auden’s, “O Tell Me The Truth About Love,” another deeply-imbedded matter of the heart (when it’s genuine, anyway). As for the father in the video, yes, he is a hero on the highest order. His little boy will grow up knowing tragedy, but without hate in his heart. His father’s Peace will have preemptively conquered fear. THIS is the change the world needs so much, and I’ve seen it — the impossible has been made possible.
    Thank you for sharing in this experience with me. 🌷


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