Winter 2018

Santa Cruz Cemetery, Dili and Austerity in Greece

Poetry by Andrew Hamilton SJ

Santa Cruz Cemetery, Dili 

A small, square, treeless plot,
a jumble of whitewashed graves,
rising to a low wall and a wooded rise,
and beyond them sharp-cut hills arising from the sea.
Each grave tells a story:
A row of nuns mostly dead at 30,
a young mother taken by fever,
the imperial governor,
cannonballs and mortar shells edge his grave.

No sign records the lives and deaths
of the young men, who in ‘91
processed from Mortael,
passed the government offices,
and, turning left past São José,
crossed to the cemetery gates.
Soldiers stood along the walls,
firing down at them.
They ran towards the wooded rise,
looking to the hills.

No help came.
They lay where they fell
and were later dumped in pits.

They are safely held in memory,
no sign needed:
trailing scarlet bougainvillea
along the wall
suffices.

 

Austerity in Greece 

Stranger, tell the Spartans
how, faithful to their commands,
we lie.

(Epitaph for the Greek soldiers who held off the Persian army and were killed at Thermopylae)

Although sold out for Persian gold,
these few preserved their pride.
As evening turned to night,
they polished swords and sharpened spears,
and gently combed each other’s hair,
and at the rising of the sun they sang,
prepared to fight and die.  

Today the rich have sold us out:
our children forced abroad,
our widows beg for bread.
Last night the satraps came to watch:
to see us bow our necks beneath the bottom line.
This morning, no one sings.

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