In early 2010, the United States will have spent $1 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On March 11, 2010, participants of the Split This Rock Poetry Festival gathered at Upper Senate Park near the U.S. Capitol, stepped up to the mic, and recited or read one line of poetry about their vision for the next $1 trillion.
These lines have became the beautiful cento you see below. The same evening, The Washington Post published an article that includes excerpts and a video. (We invite you to read the Cento we created in 2008. at the inaugural Split This Rock Poetry Festival.) Note: This page is a work in progress. Please forgive any errors or omissions, which we will correct soon after the festival.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse ...
Extend helping hands rather than clenched fists
How big is a trillion dollars? How many Afghans, Iraqis dead?
Not every child can fit in a round or a square
“Matters of state” – who bears the cost? Wars, no jobs; Afghans, Iraqis die
If Peace broke out tomorrow …
Would you be ready?
Would you enlist?
Tomorrow no one in this room will be hungry.
Why do I live exiled from the shine of oranges?
Children should know the sky holds clouds and birds
and the occasional lost balloon. Why teach them bombs?
throw down your arms! reach out: put them around me, holding …
Soldiers below are not close enough to hear the throb of music.
when your heart is broken you plant seeds in the cracks
and you pray for rain
We’re going to stop war and we’re going to stop it now!
Flags raised high and waving: not calls to
battle, but festival banners!
One day we awake.
Each star shining in dawn’s headdress.
In every war, whoever wins, in the end, the people always lose.
Help each other. Have that singing in the evening.
Carry the shell of man into this clouded sky
blow the song
Today we shall look into the mouth of a small cave.
you don’t really want to go to war.
The words crime is to leave a man’s hands empty.
Men are born makers.
Thus in silence, in dreams I thread my way through hospitals …
I sit by the restless all the dark night.
I beg you: fund no more unthinkable acts
with unthinkable sums.
Sex education that includes sex.
Could the poor see prosperity in America
and could we all be free
Inject the Monetary System with loving openness and witness
the revolution humanity craves
We must learn from our past, to instill hope for the future.
War Was Element of 3-Part Peace Strategy, Bush Says
I say watch your language
One trillion homes with clean drinking water
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
I could say much to you
Be happy as you can
The right to peace, to art and love
the dream and the right of all humankind
One more word like this and the
hammers will be swinging free
The next trillion? Learn Dari, attend same-sex weddings, memorize Lucille Clifton poems.
Stay together. Learn the flowers. Go light.
on earth as it is, Heaven.
It’s late, but everything comes next.
Lives lost are irreplaceable, attempt redemption, honor what was sacrificed.
Save My Generation.
Now is the time for poetry to storm the walls of Congress.
The loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a-changin’.
our political apathy greases the palms of hands outstretched to special interests.
As you conduct your wars, think of others—don’t forget those who want peace.
The ocean of our restraint
will swallow every blow, and
the ripples will spread across
our faces like a smile.
We are citizens, not tools.
Rain glazes blue Hubbard squash in the field. I see their glint.
This is the oppressor’s language but I need it to speak to you.
Onions and chocolate and all the stew of ourselves we can eat.
I forgot I was awake ‘til I woke up again.
I announce a life that shall be copious, vehement, spiritual, bold.
6 billion beings 1 trillion for war.
That’s $1,666 per person US.