The Indochina Victory Celebration, April 26, 1975
After a decade of protest we are here tonight
in this rented hall: so many faces
that haven’t seen each other for years, but above each
floats a file folder, a dossier
of the vanished committees, the old disputes, position papers,
denunciations, splits, and opinions. And so
everyone is very careful when we meet, very polite.
Some of us don’t even go into the hall for the speeches
but stay in the corridor where the beer is on sale.
No one wants to talk about politics.
Too many words now we understand to be an attack on each other:
“struggle”, “China”, national”, “peace”.
So the conversation stays neutral, or else considers
the newest happening: one of our old friends
who was supposed to sing some anti-war songs of the ’60s
received a phone call this afternoon from the group
organizing tonight’s program. They informed him
he was not to sing one song because it was “offensive”.
Our friend asked the voice on the phone
who the song offended. I don’t know, he was told.
I’ve never heard the song myself.
I was just instructed to convey to you the Collective’s decision.
It goes on. The small groups form, debate,
produce two issues of a newspaper or magazine
then dissolve, and re-align endlessly. This evening
the old and the new pass each other as they clear the chairs
out of the hall for the dance: the decade of ourselves
who can no longer speak to each other
and the new ones, less of these, who are still burning
with the clarity of the Word.
Ninety-six per cent of Canadians, according to one survey
state they never enter a bookstore. And here
are the sort of people who not only read books, like academics,
but even argue about what it is they think the books say.
No wonder no one outside ourselves understands what we mean.
Or that we do not understand anyone else.
Sitting with a beer in my hand
waiting for the band to start
in a crowded room under the banners
suddenly it seems to me I am flying backwards
down a long tunnel or road, into the darkness.
I want to say: “This is our history:
what there was of a tiny popular left
met for less than ten years
and at the end shrank into even smaller handfuls.”
No one is listening. Some, having changed their minds once about things
are careful not to hear any more.
Others are certain that the history of some place else
is all that happens, all the history that is real.
We have gathered tonight to celebrate
what the sponsors of the evening have called a victory.
But I see around us
what it means to have lost: the organizations shattered,
solidarity broken on the shoals of fantasy
and personalities, less human fellowship remaining between ourselves
when we gather to talk of a better life
than we share each day on the job, working for the owners.
If we believe we are moving from victory to victory
we are wrong. If we never win here
we will never win.
Wayman, Tom. “The Indochina Victory Celebration, April 26, 1975.” Free Time: Industrial Poems. Toronto: Macmillan, 1977. 34-36.