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An airplane lands with a hundred liars on board.
The city greets them with a handful of flowers,
With a smell of naphthalene and sweat,
With a wind from the plains of Asia.
Beneath the floodlights the liars say
In fifty languages: We are against the war.
Quietly, I consider the liars to be right,
The liars are telling the truth, but
Why do they need fifty hours
For a single sentence?
When they depart, the flowers have turned gray.
The ashtrays overflow with butts joined in solidarity,
With unswerving cigar stubs
And unconquerable stumps.
Peace is swimming in the spittoons.
In the White House, under the floodlights
The honest people announce at the same hour
A new truth. The war is growing.
Only the liars are unswerving.
In the White House, the flowers are fresh,
The spittoons have been disinfected
And the ashtrays are as clean as bombs.
A blast of wind passes over the city,
A wind from the plains of Asia. A throttled woman
Whistles this way, as she battles for her life.
–Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Friedenskongreß in: Die Gedichte p. 270 (1983) (S.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Number of people who attended the World Grits Festival, held in St. George, South Carolina, last spring:
The brown bears of Greece continued chewing through telephone poles.
In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”
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“Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.”