Ode to a Latter-Day Sisyphus

The following poem was written in the 1970s to a dear (F)riend of mine when the local draft board refused him CO status, despite his being a Quaker. The Selective Service System wished to draft him into service in Viet Nam. I handed this poem to him as he was on his way to California from Illinois for a Federal Court appearance. He worked then to bring peace, including with military folks then and still does with the American Friends Service Committee.

(Sardonically dedicated to the U.S. male: That Tragic-comedy personified which ain’t Greek–only a stragedy in Red, White, and Blue.)

Have you ever flown when it's a gray and rain-spitting long day’s journey into Chi-town from anywhere, especially everywhere? The way to Peace is far more difficult. Sisyphus only knows!

But then you're a latter-day Sisyphus in you ownlittle, bearded, Gandhiesque, blue-jeaned, rockclimbing, Friendly sort of way. Your rock is a question-mark; your mountain, the system: yourstrength as the mountain slip-slides or shall wesay cudgels you down, your strength is the, a, an,your Inner Light, my God, his Christ, them overtheirs Prime-Mover.

But know, my latter-day Friendly and et cetera Sisyphus, that He is, I am, she is, We all are with you, so roll onward. If the, a, an, your Inner Light, Him, us, et al should shoulder you and your question-mark rock up to the summit, who shall dwell upon the mountain then? Whose mountain shall it them be? HIS that walks upright; HIS that works for Right, speaks for truth, slanders not, nor does evil; HIS that loves his neighbor, and despises the vile.

Sound familiar, my Friend?

The impossible is only a degree of difficulty: So roll onward, for the mountain changes face with every depressing, mucky, unsure advance of your question- mark rock, your shibboleth, your beauty. So roll His Friend; roll on.

God and the dove are with you, the Inner Light within you, and without you there would be no hope.

May your gray, rain-spitting long day's journey for peace anywhere, especially everywhere, be a sure, steady push of self and question-mark rock upward.

Roll onward, Bruce, roll onward, for the summit once attained reveals that the water is receding, that the dove's wing might be torn, but that the olive branch is firmly in its beak. Peace, my friend, is dear, as dear to us as you and you to us.


by Contributing Poet:     Peter Seidman   Copyright © 2015
      ( First published in   2015 )

Bio:   Peter Seidman   was born in Chicago, and was educated in the Heartland as well as on both coasts. He retired several years ago from life as a teacher, R&D program manager, and editor. Peter has been published among other sources in Gertrude 13, River Poets Journal, Presence, Wild Goose Poetry Review, The green tricycle; as well as in Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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