Where Are The Men

By Posted in - Voices Rising on March 10th, 2014 0 Comments

A tidal wave is coming
A tidal wave is coming
A tidal wave is coming

But it doesn’t break like a regular wave
it rises quickly
before you have the chance to retreat
men’s faces stare from the top of cliffs
Looking down at the bodies in the water
But do not call out to them
to move to higher ground

Soon the water is above their heads
But from the cliff it appears as if they dipped
Beneath the surface
A morphed form
That didn’t seem to exist until this moment.

But the water doesn’t flow back. It keeps rising.
Soon the cliffs are eclipsed by the swells
It moves so fast from your ankles
suddenly it is over your head
We pretend we didn’t see it coming
But the ocean is always moving

We felt the swells before they reached the shore,
Before the cliffs were swallowed by dark water.

This isn’t a dream, it is a rising tide of anger
and outrage, distrust of too much history
collapsed into too short an attention span.

The water is still there the following morning
And the days after
And a generation after that
You are asking if the water will ever recede

You are thinking of all those taken under
Its movement that overcomes and surrounds you
Its movement that drowns you
Its movement that produces new silences
As the land drops below the surface of the wave

These lives are dreams lost in the water
grief overtaking a landscape that was there before;

A new territory marked by a consuming ocean
Where men watch in silence

Men who refused, when the waves came
Men who waited, when it took their sisters and daughters
The storm that remained

‘If this is ignorance, it is a willful ignorance’
An amnesia of the present
A forgetting of all sense that could have compelled
us to call out, to turn back the swell of violence
we have watched, that has yet to subside.

We cannot walk on water no matter how hard we have tried
No matter who has attempted to convince us that we need only wait it out
Until the clean up crews arrive.

The following year the rains came
and the ocean mixed with the rain
those who foretold its coming, still did nothing
and the water remained.

Our generation has inherited the flooded plain
where the land once was

The salt in the water has corroded the metal
we shaped into weapons
we claimed would defend you

But the force of the water has mixed with the force of our silence
And the force of our silence has mixed with the force of the drowned land that now surrounds us

We have no ground to stand on
We can no longer claim innonence

What will we do with so much water?
How do we hold the ocean to account?

We can hear each other now:
across the surface
sound carries further

But we do not speak,
Fearful of what might be heard
when our words are carried this way

Fearful of what we are thinking
Fearful of what we might say

Fearful that our words might skip
like stones, for a while,
and not reach far enough

Words not borne by movement drift, sink.

When the waves came
we accepted them
resigned ourselves
to a misshapen new terrain

deformed by the process
and its continuance

The flooded subsumption of dry land
Undercurrents that cannot be heard

We are responsible for the fearful stones
that we hold in our hearts
that prevent us from casting them

We are responsible for the stones we have cast
that sank with the bodies we watched overcome by the water

From the cliffs
You would expect to feel some distance
But the tide has risen so high
that, now, there are only small breaks in the surface;
they appear and disappear when the wind moves the water
across them.

Things vanish. And are gone.

We wait. Not at the shore,
but standing deep in the water,
We are waiting to become strong.
We are waiting, waiting,
But we have been in the water all along

A long time ago
When the water wasn’t mixed with so much force
and so much fear
When the water carried us
We didn’t speak of floods

Now we see only water:
we count lives lost
at the surface
and give them numbers
to mark the epidemic
we claim has come from outside,
or to wash our hands of responsibility
for benefiting from the tide.

The water will always be with us
We know how to move
through its depths

But, with so much land hidden,
warriors seem to prefer talking
about the high vantage points
they used to claim

The great distances they could reach
Away from the sound of the breaks and the waves
Up high,
A privileged view,

From which the sea appeared peaceful
When the shoreline was still visible

The deceptive calm and quiet
of a darkening

That we have refused to acknowledge exists.

What ends here?
Our fear?
Our failing?
Our silence?
Our inaction?

Our rhetorical honor of the stolen names
of our sisters claimed
after so much time passing

Honoured only in death
But in life left to a drifting feeling of our own helplessness
to stand in strength,
our resolute refusal
to stand in the currents
for fear of being swept away by depth

or some darker inability to
help each other understand
the role water plays

that which we have complicitly held
up as the lowest abrogation of duty

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to protect those we love
and stand with those who rise.

There is kindness in knowing how to move in the water:
But each step must be felt first
Each step must be felt first
Each step must be felt first
We must be held to account first
We must hold ourselves to account first.

There is fire in the words of the water-bearers
whose currents carry us
Who bear us

We must carry the burden of our privilege
to dream of dry land
and high places

and no longer be afraid of dark water
and waves

We must do better to honour those who walk
in the world we have made.

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