“Jonah” is a poem I wrote during the first Gulf War, which was raging during my tenure as a nonviolent resistor to the nuclear weapons at Subase Bangor in Puget Sound. Living beside the railroad tracks leading into the base, I witnessed monthly shipments of missile propellant fuel destined for Trident submarines. Admiral Trost said that the subs were necessary to “protect the lifestyle to which we had become accustomed.” Nevermind, that most people do not share that affluent lifestyle, and they are in poverty partly because taxes are allocated to these weapons, while food stamps are drastically cut. My spiritual practice is to try to live a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on the weapons to protect it.
The poem reflects the despair I felt then and now, but it offers hope that resistance can breed resistance. It was dedicated to Steve, a submariner who applied for, and received, conscientious objector status. We are called by conscience to go to Nineveh. Will we go?
For Steve, Who Broke the Silence
How obscene that submarines slither through unseen.
Journalist to Pentagon briefer: “Sir, is it true that
A cruise missile was fired from a submarine?”
General Kelly: “We never discuss submarines.”
They slither through unseen.
As unseen as the bodies in Baghdad.
Today I sit on Hood Canal-
Mountains, sun, spring wildflowers.
Euphoric, here where
Submarines slither through unseen.
As if to confirm the paradox
Two patrol boats pass.
Do they escort the Leviathan?
I can’t hear it.
I can’t see it.
The beast breaks silence,
Its dark, hulking frame mimicking the
Great Orca of Puget Sound.
Shivering, shedding silent, shame-full tears…
When the beast descends this time
It goes down depleted.
Another Jonah has tumbled out,
And his “No” will echo forever in
The belly of the whale.
© rita h. kowats