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Why don’t they just negotiate?

A poem

In this poem, Tempest member Sam Friedman observes the limits of pacifism while children die and catastrophe looms.

Doves and vultures

chit and chat,

and canaries hatch,

sing warnings for years

before they die,

and generations of children

are born, get degrees,

and grants to study

the whys of peace but praise for war,

while doves and vultures

still chit and chat

and presidents and ministers

flap their wings to Stockholm

to collect Nobel bling,

and doves and vultures still

chit and chat

and presidents and ambassadors still

yak, yak, yak,

and profits slump and profits peak,

and climate talks also

chat and yak

as glaciers melt and icecaps crack,

while canaries hatch, and canaries die

alongside miners, underground,

and ministers speak, and yak, and yak

while soldiers and airplanes attack

Palestine, Iran, and again Ukraine

and profits peak

and children die

as shells and missiles strike the land,

and doves and vultures

yet chit and chat

and presidents, ministers

praise the peace process,

and children wait,

and children starve,

and perhaps grow old—

unless they die


and some peace-loving fools,



“Why don’t they just negotiate?”

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.



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Sam Friedman View All

Samuel R. Friedman is a lifelong social activist and long-time socialist. His writings on social justice topics include about 50 publications on workers’ movements, how we might create socialism, political economy, racism or social movements—including Teamster Rank and File (Columbia University Press, 1982) and “What happened in Ukraine” (2015). He currently is a research professor of Population Health at a leading New York university and previously the Director of the Institute for Infectious Disease Research at National Development and Research Institutes in New York. He has published two books of poetry (most recently A Precious Residue: Poems that ponder efforts to spark a working class socialism in the 1970s and after. October 17, 2022. as well as several chapbooks and many individual poems. He is the author of over 500 publications on HIV, COVID-19, STI and drug use epidemiology, prevention and harm reduction. He is a member of the Tempest Collective, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Ukraine Solidarity Network, the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, and the People’s CDC. He can be reached at