Three Poems

by John Paul Lederach

A brilliant artist once said blessed are the peacemakers. In Spanish the phrase translates literally as on a good adventure are those who work for peace. In both English and Spanish the words work and make emerge from the Greek poíésis and an etymology that brings us the modern word poetry and which originally conveyed the idea of crafting something of high quality and beauty. Perhaps a combined translation would catch the spirit: “On a blessed odyssey are those who poetically craft peace.”

My formal education and professional training in peacebuilding prepared me to analytically understand and technically respond to human conflict. Precious little of that investment provided a foundation to poetically craft peace, or what we could call the heartflow that takes notice of the unspeakable, attends to the invisible, faces and names the ugliness of suffering while seeking to transform it toward the beauty of compassionate justice. In the hardened lands of violent conflict pax-poíésis gathers like dirt in sidewalk cracks, creating liminal seedbeds that birth the unexpected.

For many years as a peace professional I stopped writing poetry. Then poems crept in on the margins of “formal” work until they found a home at the center of how I envision the craft of moving between enmities. I watch for them now -- in conversations, in my musings and mutterings, in the lived experience, these seedlings of life that defy the barrenness of violence. I have included here several poems that I wrote in the months following 9/11. Three moments. Three countries. Three conversations.

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