Poem For The Anniversary

In her 1945-1985 Poem for The Anniversary Mary Oliver, the American poet, winner of The National Book Award and The Pulitzer Prize writes:

The way I’d like to go on living in this world
wouldn’t hurt anything, I’d just go on
walking uphill and downhill, looking around,
and so what if half the time I don’t know
what for-

so what if it doesn’t come
to a hill of beans-

so what if I vote liberal,

and am Jewish
or Lutheran-

or a game warden-

or a bingo addict-

and smoke a pipe?”

It is a way of life I’d like to have and not just me, most of the modern world and all the poets I know would like to live this way. But even as we mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq we cannot afford to deny that there is that segment of the world, that for whatever reasons subscribes to a different way of life and calls it religion. Their religion, they say, cannot be criticized. And the price for that criticism is life. As a Malaysian-Tamil poet, I have sought to articulate to an American audience who disbelieve because their way of life is so alien to the kind of thinking that exists in my country of origin. Here finally the words of another writer (Brit) for Americans to weigh regarding foreign affairs/ diplomacy and the war.

The article on my country of origin is self explanatory of my support from the start of the war in Iraq and my insistence that Muslim nations stop scapegoating the west. I have also voiced my distaste for the criticism of the highy educated and fully informed US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice and the Bush administration. Their stand against terrorism is courageous and does not preclude diplomacy. To my experience the prevailing Muslim culture in Malaysia is all about ‘saving face’ and not about addressing real issues within the national religion and government. A few Muslims, like human rights lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar are concerned but the rest enjoy the privileges of artificial supremacy.The article below by Mr.Adrian Morgan is educational and lifts a real burden off my shoulders as a Malaysian poet writing in the United States. Honestly, I am tired of engaging in the combative discussions I am drawn into by some Americans who imagine that if only their President were Friday’s child, all would be well in the Middle East and the world.

See: Malaysia: The Totalitarian Aspects of a “Moderate” Muslim Regime



Mary Oliver’s poem reads on relentlessly, as she wanders through the woods.

In the films of Dacau and Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen
the dead rise from the earth
and are piled in front of us, the starved
stare across forty years,
and lush, green, musical Germany
shows again its iron claws, which won’t

ever be forgotten, which won’t
ever be understood, but which did,
slowly, for years, scrape across Europe

while the rest of the world
did nothing.”


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