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 Kalliope, I-70 Review, The DMQ Review, Coal City Review, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Poet’s Market, and others. She served as poetry editor for Kansas City Voices and as contributing editor for Heartland! Poems of Love, Resistance & Solidarity. More poems are at www.marilcrabtree.com.