‘Prelude’

Prelude

We do fight terror with beauty.

In Matagalpa, Nicaragua
on a hillside
mothers of fallen children
threw doves on us
as we walked into their Casa de Madres
took each of us by the hand — twelve different U.S. women,
led us to a monument surrounded by grass
to place flowers on stones for their sons and daughters,
turned to say: please, sisters,
tell your president
to stop killing our children.

We fight terror with beauty and humor.

In El Salvador
after beatings
young women in prison
on crutches that didn’t fit
bellies empty from hunger strike
dressed up, made up,
stomped around,
performed as the enemy for guests
from another America.

Don’t forget us they called
as we walked out of the prison gates.

We fight terror with beauty
and with tilling
tilling of memory, tilling of land.

Near Ramallah on the West Bank
women in a farm cooperative
sewed seeds in ancient soil.
In Gaza, bursts of red pink rose from sewers,
embroidery spilling out over delicately crafted patches of fabric
spelling:no place like home.

We fight terror
when a door is opened.

In a South Bronx homeless shelter
women welcomed
and embraced
visitors from Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey
as bombs burst down on Baghdad
sharing cookies and a drink.
No place like home.

We fight terror with thought.

In Cuba
during what they called the special period
when the lights went out
someone told me: I used that time when the elevator stopped
to think, to imagine, grateful to be alive.

We fight with harmony.

Becky Genia of Shinnecock Nation
sat on the turned-over sacred land
as bulldozers for the Parrish Pond Subdivision
roared through.
Her voice
like the water surrounding the reservation
singing forever

Kathy Engel is a poet, cultural worker, producer, and creative and strategic consultant for peace, human rights, and social justice groups. She is the co-founder and founder of numerous organizations including MADRE and Riptide Communications. She is the author of Banish The Tentative and Ruth’s Skirts, and teaches at NYU.