Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bearing Witness to the Times: Verdicts and Revolutions

Hosni Mubarak, former president of Egypt, was taken back to a military hospital
 on Thursday after a court session (Photo by Mohamed Hossam, European Press)

    Verdicts and Revolutions

    The news came over the radio:
    “Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Found Not Guilty.”
    He has been cleared of any responsibility
    For the deaths of protesters
    During the Arab Spring.
    The ageing and ailing
    Former head-of-state
    Was released from jail
    With little fanfare –
    Memories of the people’s uprising
    Have faded
    With military rule firmly ensconced
    In an ancient land.

I heard the news
On my way to the Golden Temple Café.
A banner in front of the 
Health food store and vegetarian restaurant
Proudly proclaims, “Celebrating 43 Years.”
Forty-three years ago
(That would have been the Nixon administration)
In the Deep South
A Sikh yoga practitioner and restaurateur
Began a quiet revolution
That has lasted to this day.

There have been days
When I took refuge
In that  vegetarian café
Where a simple meal
Of beans and rice
Became a sign of hope
In distressing times.

Today I think of those heady days,
Now six years past,
When Egyptian youth filled the streets.
They were moved by hope
For a better way.
The news of a 'not guilty' verdict
Lets Empire stand
While streets are quiet.

It’s vegetable curry today on the menu.
Around me are happy people
Engaged in health food and conversation,
Reaping the benefits
Of that Sikh entrepreneur
Whose vision of health and wholeness
Has endured
Through many swings
Of the political pendulum.

Here at home
Uncertainty reigns.
Demagogue power holds sway;
Whispers of intrigue and corruption
Continue to erupt.
Is there hope
For a democratic spring?
Or will it fade
Like the Arab Spring?
Or will it find resurgence
After a time of remission?

Still there is a sign of hope –
Vegetable curry on rice
In a vegetarian restaurant
Whose future 43 years ago
In the Deep South
Was anything but certain.

                                                ~ CK

"The bossman," Harinam Singh Khalsa


All photos from The Golden Temple Natural Grocery and Cafe are from the store's Facebook page.
(Read a 2014 article in B-Metro here.)

*    *    *    *

The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people.  I am setting myself a goal to write a poem each week that reflects what I see and experience in the life of our nation... if I can write one poem a week there will be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.


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