Long studies in endurance make it possible to hold a placid gaze, to make these eyes a mirror, returning only light. Vanity is so often the lead horse, its reliable prance quick to assert the next happy ending: Victory, victory! I watch the riders pass, their contented flag billowing bright.
Behind these mirrored shields, the smoke of a homeland rises over blackened hills, the devastation nearly total. Except for this singing silence, the trace of oiled fingers around the surviving glass bowl. How did they miss this? Protect it. The mirrors are here so that the pillagers may not see what is left for the taking, highlighted against the scorched earth. Hold and wait until they are out of sight.
When the visionary told you, Man is not a tree, you took note. The punchline had to do with the whole country up and moving every few years. Out of one town, into another––given the means, which were a significant factor. You considered reasons. Why the impulse to cut and run; to fly, stop, land?
Meanwhile, you could not––would not, stop thinking of the child who couldn’t flee, who didn’t make it. You refused coexistence with the mental calculations that allowed the peace of some to be secured by the occupation of others.
It is a fundamental need, you said, basic as shelter, food. For sanctuary, you said. Because man is not a tree.
Adapted from June Jordan’s 1989 essay, “Finding the Way Home.”