HOME . Go outdoors on a clear night and look up at the billions of stars.

Long, long ago, a person with imagination looked up at those same stars and drew imaginary lines between them, linking them together and drawing pictures that illustrate stories we have been telling about ourselves for as long as there have been people in the world. To look at that mass of stars and see a bear, a hunter, seven beautiful sisters, a crown, the Southern Cross may seem like a frivolous activity, but ever since someone did that long ago, farmers have known when to plant and sailors how to find their way on the sea.

Police officers are men and women who take a test, get appointed by the government, go to a basic school, are given a haircut and a uniform, work for twenty or thirty years, retire, grow old and die. You could say that they are pretty ordinary, unless they strike your imagination as they struck mine. I look at them like that field of stars onto which I can project all the stories I want to tell.

We've all agreed that the constellations named long ago are OK as they are and we don't need to change them. But nothing could stop me from saying that the Southern Cross has a new meaning. I know that if you read that poem and you understand the tragedy that moved me to write it you will share in seeing that meaning. And you will see it even if you never travel to the Southern Hemisphere. And when you see it, you will never forget those five young DEA agents who fell out of the Peruvian sky like stars and are now shining up there forever.

I hope that you have enjoyed meeting some remarkable people and learning some useful things. More than anything else, I hope that I have helped you to see the power of poetry to express feelings we all share, to give life and meaning to our institutions and to bind us all together and more than anything else to inspire hope that we can imagine solutions to the problems and conflicts that afflict our lives and communities.

One of the great poets of the Twentieth Century was a Spaniard named Federico Garcia Lorca.He was a most remarkable man. One of America's great poets, Robert Bly, wrote of him: "There is no other poet like him in the history of poetry. Everyone who reads a poem of Lorca's falls in love with him, and has a secret friend. All the rest of his life, whenever he thinks of Lorca, he notices a red ray of sunlight hit the ground a few inches from his feet."

Lorca died young and tragically. During the Spanish Civil War, he was taken out and shot by what I guess you could call authority figures -- sort of like cops.

Lorca wrote a beautiful poem "The Ballad of the Little Square" about what it is that a poet wants to do -- what Lorca was doing in the world that some people found objectionable and even dangerous. Here is part of it:

My heart of silk
is filled with lights,
with lost bells,
with lilies and bees.
I will go very far,
farther than those mountains,
farther than the oceans,
way up near the stars,
to ask Christ the Lord
to give back to me
the soul I had as a child,
matured by fairy tales,
with its hat of feathers
and its wooden sword.


Tyger jumping through hoop

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