Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
The young men speaking
The young men speaking
When we were children we believed too much.
What we are asking now asked but once,
Then taken: time and peace to use our world.
Power we shall not fight for, only strength.
All that we ask is honest work to do,
Our skill needed and paid for.
We can live
Without such glory as the pioneer
Has in the books. We think the time has come.
There are no longer mountain crags to climb,
Islands to set a flag on, towns to name,
With danger's arrow aimed from every bush.
We are accustomed now. This is the world
That gives us books and agony and sleep.
This is the world we love; not bright; not dark;
But not to be reformed. The blood denies
This age we live in hurries toward an end
In futile frenzy and corrupt at heart,
As all the wise men say in magazines.
We think the time has come to use our world. .
We shall be old, we know, and see more wars.
We think the meek will not inherit earth:
Hate is an ancient habit; so is greed;
But so is winter; so is the wind and rain.
Thus echo, shadow, and the waves, no less than love
Come to their crest of being and decline,
Then sound, grow, lift again, and so with love.
A long time saying neither yes or no
We have been lookers-on; have learned at last
How simply the hand is filled to fill the heart;
Bitter because the loudest voice is glad
Denying life, and being loud, is heard;
Patient in bitterness because we know
The earth's old habit with her sickening breed.
O comrades, have you heard that one of us
Hovered above the city like a bird?
He spied on warm suburban streets and yards,
Circled the downtown towers, then overland,
Hunting the outpost line, the arsenal,
The war a class prepares against a class.
But have you heard there is no war?
Too many living, too much life, too strong
A hope that drives ten million single minds
To rouse to war, he said in his report.
Yet revolution sets the Thames on fire
Yearly, and lights the Hudson and the Charles,
The enemy known to us, the weapon one -
For uneasy meddlers prophesying doom;
Fear's organizers; wantons with the mind;
(Avoiders of all sunlight on the flesh)
No bombs or barricades, no blood or lives,
But turning ears, belief and though away
Until they die to us, and set us free.
And then no shouting leaders, no parades,
But all the young men thankful death is dead
For a little while, and thinking, Give us a room;
We have our work to do, our friends to love,
Children to get, and younger men to guide.
The time has come to use our world in peace.