For We Know Not What We Do: A Poem for Civilians

“Civilization” storms the shores with weapons clutched in hand
to slaughter all the people of this stretching “virgin” land
Iroquois and Arawak blood soaks up the soil

Forgive us sovereign Father, for we know not what we do

Traders crowd the ports of vice bargaining for flesh
Wrapping men in heavy chains to carry them out West
These “savages” are strange, and their skin’s a shade of black

Forgive us Holy Father, for we know not what we do

Brutal years roll along like Apollo’s chariot wheel
while these Negroes pick the cotton and die in sugar fields
But the system starts to crack when Harper’s Ferry’s bombed

Nonetheless, the corpses sigh “they know not what they do”

Countrymen slay countrymen to sounds of children crying
Wealthy men kiss wealthy men to tunes of tyrants lying
The olive-skinned Americans are shipped from fields to jails

Have some patience Father, for we know not what we do

Poison gas and submarines make horror out of birth
New, “advanced” weapons to diversify the hurt
A mushroom cloud scales the sky, a sign of thousands dead

By these salty tears I weep, “we know not what we do”

Archbishop Romero loves the wretched of the earth
Carter begs to differ, returns Romero to the dirt
Even Galeano couldn’t close these open veins

The pain is not subsiding ’cause we know not what we do

Two commercial planes penetrate the silver towers
The President craves blood, declares war within an hour
The mastermind is claimed to be a bearded Saudi fighter

Terror begets terror, still we know not what we do

Bombs destroy Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq
Palestine is withering, their water’s full of salt
US Congress hails the choice to let these families rot

Surely, despite the applause, they know not what they do

They spat upon and tortured Christ until he met his end
Hijacked his philosophy to wage war ‘gainst their kin
The blood of conquest hasn’t dried as new shores come to view

And once again you’ll see our crimes, grieving that we don’t too

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One thought on “For We Know Not What We Do: A Poem for Civilians

  1. This is poignant, moving, clear as crystal – a poet’s wail, a seer’s vision, a song to ‘civilized’ humanity.

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