Friday, 6 April 2012


I am the grass. / Let me work.

There's a line somewhere. It goes: "They will say 'Where were your poets?'". It has to do with the war. The first or the second. One of those. It may one day have to do with the third world war for all anyone knows.

The German novelist and Nobel Prize winner G√ľnther Grass has, as he sees it, broken silence and written a poem to the theme. It's general tone (in translation) is here.

Grass, like many of us, is deeply concerned that the precarious situation existing between Israel and Iran regarding nuclear weapons and potential nuclear weapons might suddenly spin out of control.

In particular he is angry because his own country, Germany, is supplying Israel with U-Boats capable of launching nuclear warheads.

He articulates the problem of Germany's guilt past and present. He says that there can be no excuses this time if things go wrong. There can be no claim of "We didn't know".

Naturally, Grass, will be labelled an anti-semite by many for his stance. He expects this.

People will also say of Grass that he is "nuts". He expects this too. It is nothing new for writers to be labelled "nuts". Some of the world's most brilliant poets were certainly "nuts". Perhaps one has to be at least a little bits "nuts" to want to write poetry. Or even to want to read it.

History teaches that you may also have to be "nuts" to want to go to war. Kings who start wars to expand their territory, or who start wars to cling to power, tend to lose their heads.

In the poppy fields the longest war in modern history, it's now 10 years, still cannot be won. The nuclear weaponed powers of Pakistan, India and China twitch in the grass in the background like nervous snakes and tigers.

Carl Sandburg said it best of all in his poem titled


Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.


  1. I have not read that poem before Gwil - verypowerful. Totally agree about Grass and also about Afghanistan.

  2. Grass now banned from Israel.


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