I wonder if suffering’s harvest can fit into one poem,
if a child’s last, abandoned cry
can inhabit a finite number of words?
Did you know that when a mother feels the squeeze of her labor,
when she allows her muscular womb its mighty scream,
she calls forth winged endorphins to soothe her baby’s passage?
Did you know that when she refuses the pain
she gifts her child with a first taste of hell?
Here the suffering can be quantified,
can be given measure and meaning.
Here it gathers light and possibility.
Here there be metaphors aplenty.
But in small homes around the world—
homes smelling of rancid oil and offal,
homes made of castoffs and cardboard,
children lie awake at night
worrying about their parents,
or their lack of parents
or their siblings
or their empty stomachs.
They grow hard shells around their little hearts to keep out the rain
and they grow into hard people who build small houses full of offal.
Here I lose the string of the poem.
The metaphor roams through crooked streets
and I can’t find the map.
I want to find some sweetness
even on mean streets, but I fall helpless
at the feet of all those little children.
And as I fight to keep this pain out of my life,
do I also keep small winged creatures from
flying out into a world a-borning?