Poem: Pictorial History of the Doukhobors

Koozma J. Tarasoff's Poem used for chapter openings in his
1969 book Pictorial History of the Doukhobors.
All rights reserved  by the author.

I am an idea that rambles through time;
I am part of Homo Sapiens.
For humanity I speak —
Some call me Spirit; some Wisdom; some Love,
but I am man — born and born again.
I am your brother —
whether you are of one shade or another,
of one political stripe or a different one,
whether you speak a 'foreign' language
or live in a distant place.
You know, we really speak one tongue!
We are of one family
stretching from the north to the south,
from the east to the west.
I say it is wrong for us to fight one another;
to got to war; to snuff out that spark of life in each of us. For
I am part of you and you are part of me.
We are one.

       Anarchist Kropotkin said that there was a place
       across the sea
       where I might go —
       a place where I could toil as I saw fit,
       a place where I could plant the seed of life
       without the burden of the military yoke;
       a place where I might talk
       and walk
       and stand
       as a free man can.
       I took up this offer
       (although half of me stayed behind).
       Thanks to my brother's help,
       I boarded the S. S. Lake Huron
       and set off on my journey —
       out to the turbulent sea.
       The endless rocking and tossing
       set me on my back, but I survived.
       My eyes stretched far into the horizon
       and to land again.
       As my feet touched the ground
       I gave a sigh of relief — I had landed,
       a slice out of a loaf.

By the sweat of my brow
I sing a song of humanity
as I pull the plow,
fell the trees,
build the houses,
plant the gardens,
and work on the railroad.
To the sounds of other pioneers opening the West, I toil,
I am one of them
as they are one of me.
We are all brothers.
But, lo and behold,
you appeared again —
cloaked in officialdom and democracy this time.
You whipped me with the arm of the law —
stole part of my land
('legally', of course)
and set me free.

       To the brilliant glade nestled in the Canadian Rockies
       Several thousand came.
       My muscles strained
       as rock and timber
       gave way to orchards and roads
       and a mighty river looked up
       as I crossed its path.
       My mind strained, too, and my heart beat faster
       as the many clashed with the few
       and the few with the many.
       No one had a monopoly on truth.

I led a sheltered life
as the dark mourning clouds
gathered and gathered
until they mushroomed into
a devastating blast of hell.
I felt sorry
but would not
sign up,
salute the flag,
or sing 'God Save the King'.
'Traitor', some called me
as I turned the other cheek;
I could not follow
the piper's tune.

       As the seed was planted
       so arose the garden.
       Close-lipped peas
       that wouldn't say anything;
       pumpkins that were full of stuff;
       naked beans beaming in their pods;
       outspoken spinach bursting for air;
       hardy carrots pushing for the sun; and
       red potatoes tied to their apron strings.
       Taken together
       they were one.
       they were many.
       For some
       they were none.

'I think
therefore I am'
is one philosopher's creed;
By the look of your face
it is true indeed.

       Buildings have their faces, too,
       some are jovial
       some are blue.

       Buildings and landscape
       form the place
       where there dwells
       the human race.

       Buildings are made of
       blocks and wood;
       bricks and stones
       are also good.

       Together with Nature man forms a team —
       as builder,
       as craftsman,
       as a carpenter's dream.

I am many faces:
but not forgotten'.

my marble smile
stands steadfast
in one solemn stare.

I speak in broken words
written on lips
not of my making.

'Rest in Peace'
'Gave his life
for the good of mankind';
'His religion Tolstoy';
'Sufferer for the principle
"Thou Shalt Not Kill"'.
Behold —
but not forgotten'.

       Work —
       it's a test of bodily strength
       as well as of the mind.

       Work —
       it's a way of life
       for man and other animals.

       Work —
       the opposite of rest,
       depending on how you flex your muscles.

       Work —
       some take the tractor,
       others grab the wrench;
       some map the earth,
       pull the tooth,
       treat the patient,
       defend the innocent, and
       analyze the atom as well as man.

       Work —
       we all work in our own ways.

I form a multitude —
spanning the globe,
separate but related.

My sorrows are yours;
my hopes are yours;
my joys are yours, too.
I am one with you.

sets his sights as mapmaker,
diplomat and father.

takes the chair for meetings
common and rare.

plants the seed,
nurtures it and gives it to the man in need.

takes his pen,
writes, and lets his thoughts transcend.

grapples with rock and timber,
as the sweat pours off his brow.

Yes, as families
we all form a multitude.

       Brothers and Sisters

       Let us gather together
       as people have
       from the dawn of history.

       Come —
       take me by the hand;
       lead me to the door
       and let me in.

       Come —
       give me a chair to rest my feet
       and an ear to hear me speak.

       Brothers and Sisters

Radicals and independents
scout around me like a fox;
but I am neither left nor right —
I am merely Orthodox.

Singing is my pet endeavour
for the young and for the old;
give me love and give me freedom,
never mind that greedy gold.

Leaders are my common history;
I  adhere to their command.
Like the turtle on the seashore
I bow down to the sand.

But my independent brother,
he refuses to abide,
for what I consider proper
is for him the passing tide.

So my brother
we're in trouble —
eye to eye we cannot see;
only when we lay down arms,
peace for all can there ere be.

       'Know thyself' — a common motto
       of the man with a crooked nose —
       he's the one who drank the hemlock;
       he's the one who stepped on toes.

       So in youth I took the lesson —
       took the motto by the hand;
       grabbed a handful of tradition,
       sifted pebbles from the sand.

       With the pen I stirred the mixture;
       with the tongue I tasted it;
       with the heart I felt a murmur
       as I sympathized a bit.

       You may judge me in the courtyard;
       you may say I'm rather queer —
       but be patient, sympathetic,
       there's no need to stew in fear.

Come along with me
as I walk through the forest

No smell of stale air here
or the noise of roaring motors
as drivers rush through the intersection
to beat the red light.

Walk where you please;
there's no one here but trees
to regulate your path.

Feel your feet sink into Mother Earth;
relax your toes as you walk along;
there's no concrete here to wear out your soles.

Look around:
see the squirrel climbing the tree;
he'll play with you if you would only stop and wait for him.

Look further: there's a nest and little babies in it;
they're waiting for their mother to feed them.

As you walk through the clearing —
rest your eyes, take off your pack sack and stay awhile;
relax in the warmth of the sun.
Tomorrow is another day.

       I'd stretch my hand across the sea
       From West to East; from you to me.
       I'd even go so far as say:
       'Good day, my friend, good day!'

Raise up your voice and call
'the time is ripe'.

Protest the slaughter of men —

Let's get together —
speak! My country is all mankind.

Again I sing a song of humanity:
one world at peace.

I sing of freedom, love, beauty and justice.
I sing for all.

I walk along the street
carrying a sign:
'We are all brothers'.
My friend beside me carries another:
'A Department of Peace for Canada'.

But who listens?
Who cares?

Who's the victor?
Who's the vanquished?

'Thou shalt not kill' —
Can you hear me?
Can you?

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