A Poem for the Innocents


A killing moon peeks through leaves
of trumpet trees in full bloom
for Lent, their barks crisscrossed
by wild strokes of a machete
when my son tried to help me weed
our garden, overrun with dandelions,
branches, leaves, a bounty of seed
and thorns, side by side, under clusters
of suns bursting through the branches.

Shadows flicker across the wall upstairs,
over Buzz Lightyear’s grin, Mr. Potato
Head’s sigh, and under a map
dotted with cities that fill his dreams.

What promises will I make
when I climb the stairs
before he falls asleep to the noise
of the television with cluster
bombs blooming in the sky
over Baghdad? What comfort
can I give him as I draw the sheets
over his shoulders, kiss his forehead,
when he worries that if he closes his eyes,
his Aunt Batsheva, half a world away,
will not rise from her bed in Gan Yavne,
thirty-seven miles west of Ramah
where Rachel wept for her children
and refused to be comforted.

The map over his bed now frightens
him, and I cannot convince him,
despite the miles and miles of oceans
and deserts, that the machete
under his bed will not make him safer,
any more than the sacrifice of innocents
will save us, for he knows,
he knows, somewhere
between the Tigris and Euphrates,
a wave of steel races toward Babylon…

from Dub Wise (Peepal Trees Press, 2010)

***

Geoffrey Philp, author of Marcus and the Amazons and Dub Wise, teaches English and creative writing at Miami Dade College. Geoffrey publishes regularly on his blog (Geoffrey Philp’s Blog), and has begun an online petition for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey.

Read also Beyond Mountain View and Erzulie’s Daughter

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