Maril Crabtree


I need an emblem of suffering, something
            to mark the anguish I feel each time

burdened border towns rise into iron
            clamped around refugees’ ankles

or when I see children dying from bombs                           
            or famine. In ancient days, monks

wore hair shirts and scourged themselves daily
            with leather whips to atone 

for ungodly thoughts and do penance
            for an inhumane world. Tears                                  

seem too slight a sacrifice
            for today’s torments and aren’t nearly

enough for tomorrow’s terrors –
            the planet’s last efforts to survive

despite shrunken rivers and heat-swollen 

            skies. I find nothing to signal 

the fires of conscience burning within, no global 
            tattoo for the grief of impotence. 

Our faces are masked. Caution precludes 
            holding hands. All we can do

is hold one another in our hearts and pray
            for a listening universe.

Maril Crabtree grew up in Memphis and New Orleans but calls the Midwest home. A former French teacher, lawyer, environmentalist, and yoga instructor, she is grateful for writing – hers and others’ – as the loom that weaves her life-threads together. Her book Fireflies in the Gathering Dark was a Kansas Notable Book. Her work has appeared in KalliopeI-70 ReviewThe DMQ Review, Coal City Review, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Poet’s Market, and othersShe served as poetry editor for Kansas City Voices and as contributing editor for Heartland! Poems of Love, Resistance & Solidarity. More poems are at