Don Quixote

The young need hope,
Even illusions.
Age destroys illusions
And replaces hope with skepticism.

That is why the young should not read the poetry of the old.
Soon enough the young will be old themselves,
Better now to believe that dreams come true
If you just believe them hard and long enough.

Dreams do of course sometimes come true.
In America they are often dreams of riches and success,
Of power and fame,
Dreams that achieved can taste like dust or leave others in the dust.

The truly oppressed, most of the people who have ever lived on this earth
Or who live on it now
Dream of food and respect,
Dignity and freedom from want and despair.

Throughout history the rich have always oppressed the poor.
They oppress them more and more,
Until they finally go too far,
And the poor fight back with nothing left to lose.

An old man like me has no advice for the struggling young.
But if for some reason you lose your hope too soon
And begin to despair at how the poor and weak are continually crushed,
And you come to feel there is no advance against a foe so big,

Then, all I can say is this:
In history, when all is lost, there always finally appears
A wan knight wearing a rusty barber’s bowl as a helmet,
Riding on an old nag, broken lance in hand, to tilt at windmills.

He is insane.
Driven so by his love
For Dulcinea
And for justice.

He tilts at windmills he thinks are giants
And giants actually fall.
He saves the wretched,
Because he tells them a secret that restores their hope.

The secret is that the center,
That central power that makes all others weak and undeserving
And renders everyone at the margins marginal,
Is empty.

Its power is only the false belief that it is there.
But nothing is at the center
Save for empty symbols
The rich and powerful claim only they can read.

The good Don always strikes from the margins,
In the guise of a fool, his fantasies still intact.
The center falls and history cycles on,
The losers the winners in the end,

Until it is time for the Don to come again
In the name of love and justice.
Maybe this time he is you,
Ready and willing to tilt at windmills, your fantasies still intact.