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by John Minahane

John Minahane is an important interpreter of Gaelic poetry (The Christian Druids: on the filid or philosopher-poets of Ireland, Sanas Press, 1994; The Contention of the Poets. An essay on Irish intellectual history, Sanas Press, 2000; The Poems of Geoffrey O'Donoghue, with an essay on Ireland's War Poets, 1641-1653, Aubane Historical Society, 2008) and translator of Slovak poetry (Ladislav Novomesky: Slovak Spring, Belfast Historical and Educational Society, 2004), Milan Rufus: To Bear the Burden and Sing, Matica Slovenská, Literárne Informacné Centrum, Bratislava, 2008; Jozef Leikert: The Cobweb of Being, Slovak PEN Centre, Bratslava, 2015; Pavel Országh Hviezdoslav: The Bloody Sonnets, Literárne Informacné Centrum, Bratislava, 2018. He is the founder editor of The Heidegger Review. This and other poems by him can be found on my old website at

If anywhere men should have found their freedom
Here, in a virgin country, obstinate
But cultivable for a simple life.
Here might America's untouchables
Under a non-discriminating flag -
The blue and gold of Heaven - be born again,
Equals of any man. - I loved them all:
The jetsam of a cruel economy,
In greedy zeal deficient; bitter ones
Found guilty of the colour of their skin;
Exhausted, broken victors in the war
Of individual against the mass;
And youth, whom bright hope hangs upon; or did -
For the first time all hope on earth is dead.

Sweet are Guyana's breezes; in the jungle
We are far distant from the robot-race -
The achiever's treadmill, the neurotic's couch,
The busy ulcer, the addictive dollar,
And that slow water-torture of the days
Dripping upon the lonely, one by one;
Here in communal peace we might have lived
And loved, as Christ and Lenin bade us do,
And I would dare the world: "Live as you dream,
Like us!" Man's history would begin anew!

Sweet are Guyana's breezes; venomous
The Californian wind, Death Valley's wind!
By interference of the vested interests -
The politicians, press and Pentagon,
The CIA, the ruthless capitalists - 
I am denied my place in history.
I knew such men in California;
Yes, walked among them and assisted them,
Even the President's wife came in my debt;
They thought I was one of them - the fools, the fools!
In secret service of a power unborn
I moved among them as an enemy.
No, I am not one of them! I never was!

This Congressman has come to gather slanders,
With him the hounds of a malicious press.
Oh, I am tired and ill, weary of liars,
Weary of throwing the lies back in their teeth.
They say I keep my people against their will;
What if coercion's practised on a few,
A fickle few who know not their own minds
Or have not yet got minds of their own to know?
The people cannot all be led by reason
Or lose their viciousness immediately.
No revolutionary since Christ has lacked 
His whip. Did Lenin? Does Fidel, I say?

But then, they say, I summon the girls to bed;
And is the honour small? I eat my fill;
And should the leader gamble with his health?
Our temple's funded well; and funds well spent!
The work is heavy and the hours are long;
And by the sweat o' the brow comes happiness!
The food is frugal; 'tis enough for health
Today, tomorrow 'twill be tastier!
I am no worse than the great men o' the past.
No, they are all against me, even my people;
I have attempted more even than Christ,
Than Lenin; I would have erased all shadow,
Erased you, California, you daub,
And redesigned you in some decency!

They learn too slowly, too capriciously;
The way o' the world endures too deep in them,
And could it be, endures even in me?
No! No! I was the architect, the prophet,
These but a fickle tribe, and foes around.
I have known for years there is no Heaven in Heaven,
Tonight I know there shall be none on earth.
What's left to us but death, fraternal death,
A death as beautiful as life should be?

Oh, I am tired and ill, so ill and weary
I could again take opium of religion
And say that God created for five days
And on the sixth the Devil created man,
Giving him godly dreams to madden him
And devilish appetites to burn him up;
I am all dream, others all appetite;
Why live? God, Satan, California,
I die - a thousandfold, lest you forget! -
In protest at your co-conspiracy!

Sweet are Guyana's breezes; yet I know
That what I flee from would have grown of this
If given time; is here already in seed;
These would have come full circle.

I repeated
The original American mistake.

Come, people, let us die with dignity!

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