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Training for Peace – “Pencil” by Teresa Mei Chuc

by Steve Krout
July 10, 2020

By Teresa Mei Chuc

“In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.” -Vincent Van Gogh

A missile is shaped like a pencil—
its long, slender body and pointed
end creates history.

A girl walking down the street
a few steps ahead of her sister and friend,
two medics who were trying to help
injured people, the parked ambulance—
all were annihilated by the same weapon.

Above, drones—silent, unmanned planes.
A metal, predatory bird that shoots a missile
with precision, identifying the colors of a shirt,
the features on a face—the shape of a nose,
the color and length of a mustache.

In a room far away, in another country, a man
sits at a desk and looks at a screen; he strokes
his thick, dark mustache as he carefully
contemplates, then pushes a button.

There is a charred hole in the ground
where the girl once stood.

There are pencils that write and erase,
write and erase, so that there is nothing
to be read on the page. The page blank
as the desert sky, blank as the smooth shell of a drone.

There is a family drinking mint tea
in a living room.
The man holds a cup to his lips,
the glass touches his mustache.
A silent bird hovers above.
In a split second, everyone is dead,
the house is in rubbles—arms, legs,
splattered organs among broken concrete.
Soon, there will be no trace. 

In the second century, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “As simple and quiet sisters, peace and love require no arms. For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained.” 

It isn’t enough for us to say that we abhor war, we must train in peace daily if we wish to see an end to what Bobby Kennedy called “the mindless menace of violence.” The world is ripe with enemies to focus our attention on and, in a society now dominated by social media, one can feel good about themselves for tweeting truth to power. However, if we stop there, we take the easy way out and little change occurs over time. 

Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation, wrote, “Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in others.” 

Are we willing to sit with ourselves and do the hard work of facing the appetites and disorders of our own souls? We begin training in peace when we begin to practice loving our enemies, holding our possessions lightly, and refraining from gossip. The protest against war begins in our homes, in our relationships, in our local communities, and within ourselves.

“Pencil” appears in Keeper of the Winds, 2014.

Teresa Mei Chuc is the former Poet Laureate of Altadena, California. Teresa is the author of three collections of poetry: Red Thread, Keeper of the Winds, and Invisible Light. She is the founder and Editor-In-Chief of Shabda Press.

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