Etching by Julie Maas
Etching © by Julie Maas; permission to reprint free to antifascists

a song of innocence

A poem by John Bart Gerald


they sing in chile
in an empty stadium
seventy thousand more
sing in el salvador
they sing in peru
brazil guatemala a song for you
the poor sing
babies mothers fathers
priests sisters brothers
the song of missing the song of disappeared
the martyrs' tongueless notes of suffering
eyes pressed to flesh
the blind notes of where were you

from vietnam cambodia laos they sing
they sing from names chiselled in a black stone wall
from the silent death camps of europe
they still sing

they sing along death row
with each moment's breath
condemned to death for innocence
or circumstance or guilt
of lives broken to death's use
and sing along back roads when the food runs out
when winter takes the last sense
tuneless in the corner of an old age home
in each city song of a final no

they sing along the road to basra
the retreating army going home
farmers shopkeepers in ill-fitting uniforms
defeated without firing a shot
riding hot metal in the sun
they sing a song of fire
the unresisting angel of each soul
rising like flames from each desert brother
thousand on thousand angels joining their god
sing over whips of sand over
the new world ordered mass graves
of human family

winds between the continents sun across the sky
thrust of spring in stalk and bud
summer's leaf and flower fruit and berry
sing with their innocence
a spirit passing here in words


       a song of innocence, from 37 Poems (ISBN 0.941917.19.3), was first published in akwesasne notes, mohawk nation. John Bart Gerald's poems have appeared internationally and rarely since the Sixties; currently he writes in Ottawa. Julie Maas is a graphics artist and painter. She began working in the early Sixties in New York. Gerald and Maas founded Gerald and Maas * editions / atelier in New York City (1978) before moving to Canada in 1995. They also maintain a small Community Online out of concerns for the Iraqi people [says Gerald, "There are so many peoples..."]. The poem and the etching are published with the written authorization of the author and the artist respectively.

         Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This poem is copyrighted, © John Bart Gerald 1992. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Related External Links

Gerald and Maas * editions / atelier

voices in the wilderness

Coalition to oppose the arms trade (COAT)


This Week's Internal Links

Two Epiphanies, From the Aegean Sea to the Bering Straits - by Milo Clark

Bibliography for Two Epiphanies - by Milo Clark

Irrelevant Precision - by Milo Clark

Religion and War in Yugoslavia - by David Jovanovic

The Confusion of Language, Ethnicity and Religion - by Alma A. Hromic

Proactivism at The Hague - by Michael W. Stowell



Published August 20, 2001
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