RefugeesAcross my dining table's small expanse
of space, children with fly-flecked eyes
stare through a screen which flickers with a chance
of staying alive—this is not high
definition television—but the warping
image doesn't stir the flies—they keep
locked on those young faces, scarping
trenches through yellow matter oozing deep
from perforated sores. Color, sound, it's there.
But virtual reality selects
its senses, sending no transmitted blare
of unrelenting heat, no interjects
of abject stench to foul my evening meal.
But still—I've seen enough. I turn
the TV off and watch the children fade, congeal
to momentary afterimage, burn
away. Now the TV's just a cheap machine,
a silent box, a coffin for the news.
A soft guilt flashes as I try to leave the scene—
and I wash it off with thoughts of overdue
bills, the house paint's leprosy, the car's
phlegmatic cough, the kids' anemic clothes.
My kids. Healthy, spirited, loud, running hard
through life in pricey shoes that cost, God knows,
a full day's wage. Today they've claimed the right
to visit with their father, to intrude
on his productive hours, to spend a night
with him and then return, hard-packed with crude
greed, still licking at the wealth that he inflicts.
It's a sour thought, our disparate revenue.
And then my thoughts turn to the war-torn, sick
dark mother on the news, her form a residue
of life, her infant sucking on her breast,
an empty pocket of deflated crone's
skin—sucking on that crusty nipple to ingest
some vestige marrow from her heated bones.
There should be a prayer, a chant, a hymn
that I could offer to invoke Divinity's
surcease of suffering. But one grim
picture looms—the Father God of Penalty,
Lord of Retribution Floods and Vengeance Fires,
the Mighty Breaker of Teeth, the Maker of Eve
as a casual afterthought for Adam's Higher
Comfort. No mercy there. No reprieve
for mothers of good faith who birthed church-
sanctioned children. No Father God I might
applaud...The day has given in to dark. I search
the dim room for a match, strike fire, and light
a thin white candle. Flame, Hestia's bright eye,
opens, blinks, stares, dares me to progress
past self, dares me to transmogrify
like fabled Alice, and pass, with earnestness,
through the television screen, a darkened glass
reflecting misery so much deeper than my own.
I close my eyes. Our faces intersect, are massed
together, dark and light, equal, separate and alone.
We are nurturers of lunar tides
of secret bleeding and of oyster wombs
enfolding pearls of life. I throb inside
a silence, like deafening space that falls when drum
rolls cease. I write out a check, a small
amount, a pittance gift of daily bread
given in her honor. Goddess of All
Unacknowledged Sacrifice, by now she's likely dead.
I douse the candle flame, flip on the light,
seal my supper in a plastic dome,
turn the TV on and slip beneath its white
noise blanket. Soon my children will be home.