Sunday, September 21, 2008


So how about the DNC in Denver. Do you remember Stevie Wonder, bringing together drums and drummers -- the Drums for Justice, he called them? Among them was a taiko drummer, Shoji Kameda of On Ensemble and Hiroshima. It moved me.

So, to Stevie Wonder, the Drums for Justice, for Barak Obama's Presidency, for the Winnemem, and all sacred lands and ceremonies and without forgetting whom I wrote this poem for in the first place -- young Tim Markoff, my student who inspired it (he wanted to read a poem about drums for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Assembly and couldn't find one), here's "Drum." Drum is an action verb!

If you want to speak
to the Earth,
to the Fire beneath,
to ancient stones;
If you want to hear the language
old as Time
old as basalt and dinosaur bones;
If you care to listen,
you will hear Her old heart beating
to the drum,
and you won’t be able to stop your wailing song.
The elders singing
for the children and ceremonies
so they will carry on
for Mother Earth.

More than 400 sovereign nations strong.

You will hear the rhythms,
The beat of ancient Celts
still pulsing through their descendant’s veins:
Their feet tap out their battle cry
defying robber landlords.
Tap out rhythms
of a time
when rivers and trees ruled the land.

You will hear the drum beat
that once fortified samurai riding off to battle
or strengthened the arms of farmers as they tilled spring fields.
The beat sounds across the great oceans,
stretches across time
to give the children a reason to dance
for their immigrant ancestors
whose spirits fly in on dragonfly wings
no matter how far
from Fujiyama, they are born
Never lose heart!
Never lose faith!
Never lose your Humanity!

And when the chains of greed
cut into the flesh of scientists, priests and kings
in their lonely, nightmare journey across the Atlantic,
the heartbeat
of Mother Africa beat strong
in breasts which never, ever stopped hearing
Freedom’s Song.
In the hot sugar plantations of Cuba
or from the auction blocks of Virginia.
The heart beat was always there.
And the people resisted.
And the people danced.
And the people prayed and shouted.
The people marched
and sang “We Shall Overcome.”
The people drummed
They drummed.

If you want to hear the Earth
If you want to speak Earth’s song,

Drum in any language.
It is all One Song.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.