discovery

The second Monday in October is marked as Thanksgiving in Canada, and Columbus Day in many states in the United States of America. In recognition of the brutal, on-going history of colonization across Turtle Island, parishioner Len Desroches offers this poem.  

by Len Desroches

Columbus, if only you had not been so afraid of discovery
Christopher, “Christ bearer,” if only you had discovered soul
discovered soul before rushing off
in gunboat for Spanish empire
stealing land
shedding rivers of blood
to mine shiny bits from Earth’s bleeding bowels

re-writing Gold with a capital “G”
made it easy to also leave out the “l”
Gold became God
Gold becomes God

Gold with a capital “G” is a choice
so choose:
there is Gold blinding wealth and fake independence
there is God messy vulnerable and real relationship

gold is always
yellow and shiny yellow and shiny yellow and shiny
no surprise there
no surprise at all
no surprise

God is seldom shiny
never only yellow, only white, only black, only red, only brown

and though God’s first name is Love
though God’s first name is Love
God’s very nickname is Surprise
Her nickname is Surprise
Surprise

God can be discovered
but not melted and moulded into polished projected image
of empire or gun

you, warrior-entrepreneur
waving Christian flag in Christ’s Arawak face
you, warrior-entrepreneur
waving Christian flag in Christ’s Arawak face

(and, today, what of the Catholic church’s almost two million
“Knights of Columbus”
still today waving Christian flags in sixteen countries
and on US military bases around the world?
“Knights of Columbus” imagine!)

if only you, warrior-entrepreneur, had discovered
the commonwealth of God’s gifts
the kin-dom of cooperation
and the grace of friendship

commonwealth of God’s gifts
kin-dom of cooperation
grace of friendship

then
would Arawak father’s extended hand
have felt
European’s respect

respect
instead of conquistador’s
savage racism
savage greed
savage axe demanding monthly gold quota
monthly gold quota or severed hands
or severed hands!
severed hands!!
fathers, uncles, lovers, brothers, and sons
no hands to touch, embrace, work, play, discover
bleeding to last breath of agony
breath of agony entwined with breath of horror
from brother, sister, father, mother spouse.
had the glare and glitter of polished gold and gun
completely blinded you, conquistador?
numbed dull, neglected soul to such savagery?

were the piles of bloodied, rotting hands
as systematically disappeared as the burning flesh of Auschwitz?
in both cases the piles of gold grew
in both cases the piles of gold grew
piles of gold grow

Columbus, you lived out your own declaration,
“Whoever has gold may do what he wishes in the world”
And from your journal, September 1498, “…one might send,
in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold.”
in the name of the Holy Trinity
Holy Trinity? – Unholy Trinity of gun, abusive power and slavery
Unholy Trinity of gun, abusive power and slavery

Christopher, even your own friends had to admit your atrocities:
torture, mutilation and dismembering

you knew young Bartolome de las Casas
the Dominican friar and bishop
he was not afraid to discover the people of the Arawak nation
did you ever hear his descriptions?
“Their minds are very quick, alive, capable, clear.
They are highly skilled also in the arts we educate ourselves in.
They cultivate friendship and they live in life-giving ways
in large cities. They manage their affairs in them
with goodness and equity.
They run their governments according to laws
that are often superior to our own.”
laws superior to the Empire’s laws?
superior to the Empire’s laws?
superior!

Bartolome de las Casas renounced the final goal
of all organized violence: victory
renounced victory
this friar bishop announced the final goal
of all organized soul force: reconciliation
announced reconciliation
renounced victory over others
announced reconciliation with others

renounce victory
announce reconciliation

and us here now
descendents of all this
still intimidated impressed pressed seduced reduced produced
by gold, gun and empire
still intimidated impressed pressed seduced reduced produced
by oil, gun and empire
oil, gun and empire
and soon: water, gun and empire
very soon: Sister Water

intimidated impressed pressed seduced reduced produced

if only we would risk the soul work
soul work work of soul
discover discover discover
discover discovery
discover being discovered by Surprise
Surprise whose first name is Love

discard gun force
discover soul force
discard victory
discover reconciliation

boardroom backroom bedroom

discover the stranger
especially the one stamped “enemy”
discover the enemy
especially the one deep inside ourselves

if only we would risk the soul work
work of soul
discover discover discover
before sailing off
downtown
to do the job
make a killing
do the killing boardroom backroom bedroom
boardroom backroom bedroom

the killing the killing
for what savage queen?
for what savage king?
for what pitiful monthly quotas
of virtual gold?

Columbus was

are we?

afraid of it?

discovery?

discovery!!!

Leonard Desroches – May 2015

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