Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
The poet uses the number twelve that probably represents the dial of a clock.
For once on the face of the Earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
Let’s not speak in any language. Here the poet is encouraging a unified movement among people, with no discrimination based on race or language. This would be a mass movement for the first time on the face of the earth, and would greatly enhance unity. Let us stop for a moment and not move our hands so much in violence i.e. Let us not fight and argue so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
It would be an splendid moment with reduced industrial activity (engines). The silence or the peace would form the common link between all of us, bringing us all together.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Fishermen represent proficient hunters of all kinds. The whales represent the oppressed class of human beings, because of their helplessness. It is therefore a cry for the oppressed. In this quiet moment of introspection, people would stop hurting others in an attempt to understand themselves. The whole of humankind is in a mad rush to finish off their existence and achieve whatever goals they set. People are so occupied with the daily rush of things and the flurry to accomplish their various goals that they never take the time to look into themselves and understand themselves. Mankind has been personified as the salt gatherer in the poem. In an exotic moment of peace, people would finally slow down and look into themselves in an act of introspection, identify their follies and rectify them, making them better human beings.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their
in the shade, doing nothing.
Green wars can be thought of as wars wherein people utilize nature – to hide (conceal) themselves among the foliage of forests or make use of the environment. “Victory with no survivors” is a paradox. People who win a war claim to possess victory; but is that so? Have they not lost tremendous lives in the process? How then can they claim to have had victory? All wars originate from the lack of self-understanding, and the understanding that all individuals are equal, which is why the poet stresses on introspection. There can be two interpretations drawn out from the last few lines of the stanza. One interpretation expounds that the people responsible for wars such as politicians, scientists, trigger the war and later stay in the shade walking hand in hand with the rival as brothers, while thousands of lives are lost in the battle. Another explanation is that people are never happy to go to war. They realize the absurdity of victory from war. As a result of this reflection, People can be friendly as brothers, and walk about in the shade doing no violence.
What I want should not be
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
The poet’s words should not be confused with death or a state of complete dormancy. The poet’s message is about life and he does not want it to be related in any way to death. It is not a state of inactivity but rather of continued action at a slower pace.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
As mentioned before, the basic concern of all human beings is being alive. Human beings are single-minded about survival. Human beings are in a mad rush to finish life and accomplish all their varied targets. If people could slow down for once and do nothing, the massive silence will intrude the despair of never appreciating or recognizing ourselves. When we look around, all we see is an extremely pathetic condition wherein people are only concerned or afraid of dying and never of understanding themselves. Death is a threat to many of us because it means that we will not be able to fulfill all the targets that we create. We will not be able to accomplish the task of survival in peace.
Perhaps the Earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
This paragraph is possibly empathetic toward human beings, persuading them to take a lesson from nature. During winter, the earth is blanketed with a coat of ice, and it appears as though there is no life in the environment. Even the air is frigid (frosty) and draughty. However, this is not the end and this does not last for long. The earth gets itself refined of all these trivial discrepancies, counting them all as a part of the rejuvenation process. Despite all natural disasters and calamities, the earth continues its journey. After a certain period of time, the cycle of reconstruction continues. The earth rejuvenates itself and moves on, alive once again.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Maintaining a third person viewpoint to the entire dilemma, the poet leaves us on a train of thought. Now that he has passed on the message, his work is done and he quietly leaves the scene.