Thursday, July 4, 2019

On Children at the Border: A Poem as Prayer for Those Who Need to Be Freed

Banksy art at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem,
where children are also detained by another empire. 
On this "day of independence," freedom is an illusion at best for many children and their families at the border. And they are all I can think about as I run the local "Good Neighbor" 5k, sit poolside at a family BBQ, and pass by a prison en route that has a history of being used to detain immigrants.  While endless articles (like this one) illustrate the realities of what is happening in this land, which is neither your land nor my land, the horror transcends words. We need to confront head on these tragic imageries and allow ourselves to be unsettled, for to do so is the first step to humanize those whose humanity is being detained by a nation historically built by immigrants and refugees on land that was not their own. Empathy, in whatever way you nurture it, is the pathway to liberty and justice for all. So here is my offering, a prayer in poetic empathy that lingers with me in meditations and as I put my own children down to sleep each night. 

you awake
on a cold 
concrete floor
night terrors
from the journey
the sending
the leaving
or being ripped away
my love will go with you there
their voices echo in your head
still alone
yet surrounded 
by other children
more than you can count 
making their way too
are they awake
are they afraid
who do you go to
for comfort
as my kids do 
when they are frightened 
and tremor in the night 
who is your refuge
your comfort
who rubs your back bedside 
who runs their hands through your hair
and whispers
just a dream
a nightmare
it’s not real
but you are awake
and it is real
in the land of the want-to-be-free
and the home of the afraid
and you are alone
your breath not even freshened
by mint on a bristled brush
you hunger and thirst
for food 
for water
for affection
for it to be made right again
do they even know you are
where you are
knees folded in your arms
for sure they wake up at night too
wondering if you made it
let the little children come to me
so the story goes 
is he here
where you came
where you are
afraid and alone
wanting to be home
who will fight for you
until home is here
and the dream that carried you
overwhelms the dark
and love finds you
takes you up in their arms
embraces you
assurance you are
once again