Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Deathly Quiet of the Living

A tear stains his rough, lined and aged cheek
His story he tells with words forced and meek
Of a mother’s broken sigh, of a wail of a child unfed
Of a father’s struggle, of the silence of the dead

Children gather mutely, half naked, filthy and frail
Around the old man who tonelessly recounts his tale
No more spark in their sunken eyes as they vacantly stare
No more will for anguish, no more strength for despair

Resignedly he shows me the graves beyond a wall
Heartbreakingly many and many heartbreakingly small
If this goes on, he says, none from his village will remain
Their straits are dire yet their pleading will be in vain

In the wilted fields, in the parched, cracked lands
Under the harshest sun, over the most arid sands
As far as the eye can see only emptiness and barrenness reign
Yet it is their home; to forsake it their hearts won’t deign

How many times have I pushed away my food with distaste
“This fruit is not to my liking, this bread is nothing but waste!”
If only I knew of their unending suffering and sacrifice
For every grain I would thank, for every crumb I would rejoice

If saints and prophets were to see the man’s present state
The power-hungry monster, the wealth-snatching ingrate
They would cry, is this the man to whom we fervently told
To share his wealth, to feed the poor, to care for the old?

How fortunate we are that Divine Mercy exceeds the Wrath
Still compassionate souls live to walk in the saints’ and prophets’ path
As long as the earth hums with their tireless efforts to keep their word
There’s hope that the old man’s sad tale will soon be heard

This poem is dedicated to the Somali people and everyone else around the world suffering and dying from hunger, and also to those men and women working day and night to eradicate this suffering.