In the streets of Paris, they beseech:
Though that breath is an ocher stain, warm, waning
thrum of furtive goodbyes, the last of love slipping
into palms, into eyes and ears that strain
for more than the savage blasts, the fugue of terror
at La Belle Equipe, Gates D and H,
the Bataclan, each terrace of wheeling joys.
Make all that burns a temple, though the blood
is bitter, our place of belonging pendulous, shattered
and flayed once again.
Pick up the small grace, the one that bore you
through San Bernadino, and Roseburg and the WDBJ
morning news, the scrap that kisses
the face of humankind, flutters
for freedom, peace.
You do not have to know the way,
whether you keep your vigil quiet and solitary,
or with the throngs that rally for Michael Brown and
John “Trey” Crawford, for Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray,
who raise their voices for the Emanuel Nine, who cry
for justice and equality from gutted hope and wounds
that seep beneath a bilious scab.
Remember Aylan, truth washed up
on a Turkish beach, his 3-year-old body
a soft weight, a soft nest, in your fear.
Gather him in, gather them all from the nameless
corners and scalding headlines, from the unfathomable
and familiar, until they have broken you, rearranged
you into more. And then,
turn to face the day.
Lace kindness into your boots.
Trade your gold coins of desire and want
for mercy, salty and honey.
Share them with abandon, with haste, a small
sun to break over you and I, us
and them, arms for this wearying world.
Take it in, such thirsting wilderness,
bruising wonder… and bow
to the mystery still.
Carry the ache around daily, a loss to blister
the black mouth of your sorrow, strike
the flint of your rage. Give them
a voice. Let them wail, tear
through the bright gloom and trembling
dawn, a torrent of holy fire.
Then begin, close in, closer still
with what has locked you away,
the haunted dream, the hurt that spears
you in the silence of your lover’s
gaze, your mother’s glare.
Stir the words you buried, shake off the dust
that settles itself in a cancer of regret.
Reel in the forsaken, the unforgiven.
Reach for a whisper, roll it around
on your tongue. Feel the smooth petal,
opening vein and secret pulse.
And, lean in because
your father is dying.
Press your ear to his chest.
Listen for the sound he never
spoke, salve from a spirit that drifts.
Take your sister, the barbed wire
of her name, the son who has squandered
your hope, the one whose promise leads
you to a raft of loneliness.
Find a keyhole, a quiver of light
on the long lip of darkness.
Fall to your knees, grasping prayers
from the weeping sky, the singing earth.
Let them slide through open fists
and budding heart,
to these bare bones
Note: This is an older poem written after the November 2015 Paris attacks but amidst another horrific news cycle, I needed its reminder today to keep an open heart, to choose radical compassion and fierce love, to feel the deep sorrow and pain of what’s happening at our border, to remember our oneness.