poetry Today for the People of Your War-Torn Nation
Today for the People of Your War-Torn Nation
By Eve Sutton
The women of my neighborhood are collecting
vegetable seeds for your gardens, play clothes
for your children, embroidery thread
so your women can tell their story
stitch by stitch. All over my country,
good citizens are posting white flyers
with the recipe for your salvation––
one plastic bowl and spoon, one blanket,
chewable vitamins, five dollars
to pay for shipping, all sealed in
one clear plastic bag––
hoping our parcels will be noticed
among the boatloads of wheat, the planeloads
of antibiotics, the uncountable millions
of dollars that Congress has just approved.
We can't help trying to help, though we know
half will be stolen, or eaten by rats, or left to rot
when the transport trucks lack fuel or spare parts.
We can't help sending our Red Cross workers,
our soldiers and medics and civil engineers.
And we can't help sending them the way we do,
all with their tidy bags of supplies,
their limited tours of duty. Overwhelmed,
they will search for exceptions:
Lives that can still be saved.
Bridges that can still be repaired.
Today for the people of your war-torn nation,
I offer a prayer as I step over the children
lying on the floor of the day care center.
They are sleeping on their mats
or not sleeping, whispering in the darkened room.
The head teacher––her name is Janie––
takes up her pen and clipboard, carefully noting
how much milk we used at lunch,
how much is left for tomorrow.
We know the room is too crowded.
The little ones fit under tables, between chairs, even
in that tight corner between the front door and the wall.
The four-year-olds have outgrown their blankets.
A torn sheet covers the dusty window.
The carpets need a good cleaning; the stairs need repair.
But this is what peace is, most of the time,
and I want to share it with you.
Not opulent, perhaps
not even adequate,
but certainly safe.
Janie has finished her reports.
Now she has twenty minutes all to herself.
She opens a deck of cards, starts a game of solitaire.
This is how peace sounds––
the slow breathing of children, the faint slap of cards.
Eve Sutton teaches and assists writers in California. She regrets that this poem seems current (it was composed around 1994), but she expressed her appreciation for this opportunity to share its message of peace.