A Poem by Terry McNeely

500 Weeks and Counting

for Jim Albertini and all the Dedicated Ones

From Kilauea, lava flows
towards the ocean
across the lower slopes
of the high mountain
destroying vegetation and man-made structures
along the way.

Five hundred weeks, people have stood here in Hilo
against the country’s war machine. Five hundred
weeks and ever growing, it is hard to imagine
the dedication, the extra-ordinary perseverance
and patience displayed weekly by a few, here, in
the front of the Hilo Post Office. A lot happens
in 500 weeks, a first war which few protest, a second war,
useless and predatory, while talking heads gloat and preen
tracking the fall of the bombs and the missiles on USA TV screens,
and the country
accepts the deaths
accepts the massive waste in lives
lost and hospitalized, countless children exposed to mutating
doses of radioactivity and our country slowly becoming
one massive head wound as our spiritual life flows
down Baghdad drains and Afghani sands
and our indebtedness climbs by the trillions
the country accepts the perverted logic that these actions
somehow are protective, somehow are necessary
even after the justifications are exposed as lies.

A lot happens in 500 and one weeks
millions lose their jobs
and millions more now work for sub-par minimum wages
middle class wages on a decade-long shrink
and still the country accepts the losses
with little protest, save a few scattered here and there
breadcrumbs that soften the edges of the collective
consciousness, yes, a lot happens in 500 and two weeks
millions lose their homes
and millions more apply for food stamps
living on the edges now
and still the country accepts the losses
engineered by financial geniuses freed of conscience
by high priests Reagan, Friedman, and Greenspan
and the acolytes Bernanke and Geithner
and still the wars continue, wars on sanity, wars on drugs
wars on conscience and humanity, on nature and ourselves
a lot happens in 500 and three weeks
and still the country accepts the losses, continues to trust
the vote           and a new president promises change
we can believe in, yet he reappoints the over-worked thieves
the worn-out bankers and the left-over generals…

On the burned over  slopes of the volcano
the wind brings offerings of seeds

And still the country accepts the losses
with only a solid few standing in protest
all over the land, people from many areas of expertise
and concern, standing for us all, so many citizens now afraid
and just hustling dollars for the mortgage or the doctor
but opposition is edited out and politicians bought
is it hopeless?
the days run into years
and the angry truths
fail to ignite indignation
for we live in a bubble of fear
a self-induced media re-enforced mass hallucination
a pyramid scheme of righteous consumption
called the “american way-of-life”
we can only wonder
as the people here
bear a quiet witness
few sow seeds
in the face
of historyʻs heat
yet history is a poor substitute for the power of story.
love is a process   where the days run into years
and slowly a truer story
is re-discovered
five hundred and four weeks
and counting

A lot happens in 500
and five weeks
in the lava field
scattered seeds of ‘ohia lehua
begin to take root
healing the land.