For We Have Seen/We Build a World

A War Tax Resisters Chorale

by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee meeting
Cleveland, Ohio
November 7, 2009

            (note: the italicized refrains spoken by all)

1.  For we have seen

For we have seen

The Guatemalan peasant shares the horrors of the massacre that left many buried, they know not where.  Life goes on.  The corn is planted; then the harvest.  Yet sorrow remains entangled in its roots.

For we have seen

The father weeping inside holds his children
As their mother leaves for greener and richer fields.

For we have seen

A little joke, a play on words, expectation twinkling in her eyes
extinguished.

For we have seen

Their heads blown apart, crying, begging, but my hand came back from my face covered in blood.  And for them I could do nothing.

For we have seen

She was deceived,
Then she was raped,
And the bond with her true love
Was not broken.
Now he lifts up her light
That others may discover
The truth about themselves
And pass on the light.

For we have seen

She struggled hard to live, her eyes closed slowly against the light, and all was dark.  What now?

For we have seen

Shots crack the stillness.  Sirens scream, a sea of green 70s police units.  It’s a hideous colon and I don’t feel safe.  Shooter still at large.  Time to walk to school.  “You’ll be fine,” my mother says, and “don’t be late.”

For we have seen

It was the night of my seventh or eighth birthday, when he locked the front door, pushing me out of his way, to top the window to scream and call my mother a bitch.

For we have seen

Numbers pulled from a jar cleaved a room of young men—a lottery of death that is our job to rescramble.

For we have seen

The heat bore down the blood flowed out of her leg and watered the plants.  She who was left there.

For we have seen

Dusty Indian village in evenings cool untouchable side of town, sari-clad woman approaches, lifts infant to me and says (in translation): take him to your county and give him a good life.”

2.  We build a world…

We build a world

By what right, she the angry one
Do you impugn the sacrifice
Of our brave?
And why don’t
You go back to
The country you came from
And the answer that came
I was here before your ancestors.
And my descendants shall carry on
When I am no more.

We build a world

The police officer, tired of her constant crawling through his legs, lay fingers in her hair and clenched then into a fist, and dragged her screaming across the Pentagon floor, twinkling eyes and all.

We build a world

From the knowing fear of dogs and baseball bats on Selma bridge to the triumphal march as far as one could see, front and back.

We build a world

He makes sense.  He speaks truth.  What a gift to the world.  So rare.

We build a world

Swimming with the outboard motor, set adrift, not wanting to drop it and let it sink.  Finally heave-ho aboard.  Meanwhile, swim for your dinghy, which you didn’t secure to the main ship. 

We build a world

It was when she was being dragged away and I, I was being pushed back, she was on the ground being choked and I was being detained when she pulled the cop down with her, and kicked him down.  We escaped.

We build a world

Awaking to pre-dawn bomb and machinegun fire.  It’s thanksgiving in the U.S.A.  No more hiding in Guatemalan jungles for 13 years.  The call goes out to “illumine all the lamps!”  and show the U.S.-issue helicopter gunships where we are: civilian farmers and human rights witnesses standing in the open clearing as targets of strength.

We build a world

A young boy caught a fish and could not get the hook out.  It was dying, the spiny fins stuck his hands.  An older boy, a teenager, came along and simply said, “hold the fin backwards hard, and pull out the hook,” and calmly walked away, before the miracle of success.

We build a world

We exchanged war stories.  Her ten years from age 12, insisting on being allowed a combatant role.  Once so scared, she turned the gun with its last bullet toward herself until the danger passed.  “So, how long were you there?”  “Well,” I say, “the usual tour was a year.  But I was wounded and spent months in the hospital”  She stopped short and gave a sigh and a look of sorrow.  “You were only a tourist.”

We build a world

Her eyes shining in the lungs of the world looked at us, in the Colombian rainforest, and said, I can’t believe you came all the way here to see me.