Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Got Up at Five A.M. Because I Had to Write This Poem

The Refugee

She is only two, hardly old enough to understand.
In any language.
She sleeps on the floor of what used to be
a big-box store, with hundreds of others.
But she doesn't really sleep.

Mostly she wanders around, crying
and screaming for her mama,
who was told they were taking her away for a bath.
She pounds her fists on the floor, inconsolable,
with terror in her eyes.

I try to give her some old toys they supplied for us,
but she is not interested. Her tears will not stop.
I want to hug her, cuddle her, rock her,
tell her it will be all right, but I'm not allowed.
It's against the rules.

Why did I take this job?
I want to say,
This is not who we are,
but that would be naive,
when I know we wrested children
from their mothers on plantations,
sent them to their deaths
on a thousand-mile snow-covered trail,
put them in a desert enclosed in barbed wire
because they looked like the enemy.
This is not who we should be.

This two-year-old's only crime was having a mama
who was scared enough for their safety to flee
to a country where she thought things would be better,
who didn't know that the laws would be so cruel.

The children try to sleep tonight,
on a brightly lit, hard floor,
with shabby blankets,
and a big mural of the President
who scowls down on them.

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