My contribution to the Second Annual Brigid in Cyberspace Poetry Reading. A bit didactic perhaps, but always worth thinking about.
QUESTIONS FROM A WORKER WHO READS
by Bertolt Brecht
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times?
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them?
Over whom did the Caesars triumph?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants?
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Years’ War.
Who else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man.
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.
To which we might add our own questions about the families of those workers and soldiers, women at home unable to protect those they love from the real harm, so instead they knit up scarves and hats and mittens and whatnot to protect them from the harm that they can fight.