Monday, January 14, 2013

Upon the Seas of Anarchy, Canto III

Canto II

Canto III

There is a certain circular justice
In building the first charter city on
The continent of Africa. A kiss
Of freedom for the world, a kiss of hope
For all the world that looks in the abyss.

I want to talk about the time I went
To Freedom City, met with Song – the “Pope”
Of liberty, we snidely joked – was sent
As a reporter to expose the truth
Of what was happening, so Hel-bent

To show it was corrupt and exploitative,
To show how it was run by the uncouth
And show that it impoverished the native
And immigrant alike. I went to see
My fantasy and what no contemplative

Person, one who truly understood what
Mankind is like in his complexity
And not as I would improve him – a slut
And saint at once – a fractal golden mean –
Who, praised or curse, can always give a “but . . .”

No, I was sure that I would find corruption –
And that, indeed, is what I found: a scene
Of desolate corruption, interruption
Of wealth and progress Song had made upon
Sanaga’s mouth by Kalabi’s disruption.

But I’m ahead of myself yet again.
I went to Freedom City, met with Song,
And entered his great city with distain.
I could not see the wealth and freedom there –
No matter what, I would see only pain.

But even I could not deny the sight
I witnessed there. A city growing where
A river delta swamped the land, delight
Of senses, energy, and work displayed
Itself in every nook, both day and night.

I saw musicians playing by the streets,
Each one well-dressed, each sounding like they played
The Met each night; the poets rapped their beats
In coffee houses; on each wall there hung
The city’s artists’ works in well-sketched sheets

And brightly painted canvasses. The smell
Of food filled up the city, and my tongue
Had never tasted food and drink so well-
Prepared, no matter where I went, so fresh
And clean. And yet, so certain this was Hell,

I could not see or taste or smell what all
Emerged before me naturally. I’d thresh
The city that I saw to give it, wall
And street alike, back to the people who
I knew this Song had stole it from, install

A government who always would provide
Each citizen the smallest thing and do
All things for everyone. I would divide
The classes, rob the rich to give the poor
What I thought they deserved and chide

Them if they dared complain. Unhappy, smug,
I thought that my unhappiness was more
From all the suffering I saw – the drug
I fed myself – but generosity
Is never true from those who, like a thug,

Would take from others. No, true happiness
Can only come when you give honestly
From what you own – that’s how you get the bless
Of happiness. You give what others earned
And you will simply live a life of stress.

It took me many years to learn this truth,
A truth, despite the evidence, I spurned
In articles and in the voting booth,
Until I looked upon the devastation
Of Freedom City that was so uncouth

As to dare challenge my ideals. But when
I went to see the city, revelation
Was still a long way off. I saw a den
Of thieves at work, and searched until I found
Corruption there, as though a place where men

Existed would not have its stench. But Song
Would have to learn a city needed ground
Of solid stone, that bribes were sand, were wrong
Not just as abstract morals, but because
The bonds they built were simply not that strong.

Perhaps I helped to bring the city’s fall –
Perhaps that’s what a good reporter does,
Exposing wrong – perhaps I pushed the ball –
Perhaps it would have happened anyway –
But when my article collapsed the wall

Of secrecy in Cameroon, a cry
Went out against the city on that day.
The government reacted – they’d deny
Corruption, but General Kalabi
Was sent in right away, and therefore by

The end of that same week, the General
Was occupying Freedom City. He
Had somehow failed to capture Song, but full
Of victory at taking unarmed men,
He declared victory and killed a bull

Right there within the city square, a kind
Of sacrifice, to cleanse the city. Then
He said all Cameroonians would find
The city theirs, but all the rest must leave
Within the week, or he would make them blind.

I think it now barbarity, but then
I thought it right. Back then, I would believe
The lies of all dictators, big strongmen
I now see raped and pillaged those they ruled,
And did it with the mere stroke of a pen.
Canto IV

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