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poetry Today for the People of Your War-Torn Nation

In an era of endless war and more war, poet Eve Sutton contrasts a world of peace and safety.

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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.