Split Borders (a found poem)

Split Borders

Parents are property,
Children an immediate danger.
Mean, this humanitarian crisis.
The democratic republic
Separating parents from children—
Families fractured by policy.

Unconstitutional,
Cruel,
Unlawful,
A violation
Of due process and
Equal protection.
Vexing.

The administration appeared
Unprepared for the fallout
“The child has rights,” a spokesman conceded.
“This is a complex situation.”

Amid the chaos,
The president continued to rail against
Those fleeing danger and persecution,
Asylum claims,
Our land,
Judges,
Laws.

An unmistakable message:
“You can’t come in.
“Don’t come at all.”

Respond, lawmakers.
Shift focus,
Keep families together,
Lean into that vote,
Cross that bridge.

Take action.


Poem found in “Federal Judge in California Halts Splitting of Migrant Families at Border,” The New York Times, June 26, 2018.

Unprecedented (a found poem)

Unprecedented

A choreographed
Freewheeling wager.
Flattery,
Cajolery,
And a slickly produced video.

A bulletproof confrontation.

Diplomatic language,
Recycled statements,
Verifiable missiles.

Sleep well tonight!

A showdown with diplomacy:
Three hours of meetings
Plus a lunch of prawns and crispy pork.

Provocative vague details,
A thumping soundtrack
Of benevolent peacemakers:
An inspirational view.

Aides fidgeted.
Reality TV?
Science fiction?
A buddy movie.

At ease with each other,
They walked on a balcony,
Smiled occasionally,
Heaped praise.

Human-rights abuses?
Hardly a priority.
It is a rough situation over there.

It’s rough in a lot of places.


Poem found in “The Trump-Kim Summit Was Unprecedented, but the Statement Was Vague,” The New York Times, June 12, 2018

War Crimes Honored: A found poem

War Crimes Honored

The camp,
Holding 32,000 Union soldiers—
The fifth largest city in the Confederacy—
Was dire.

The prisoners,
Never issued clothing,
Wore their uniforms until the pieces fell off,
Lived in holes they dug in the ground.
One reportedly used a pocket knife
To amputate his own gangrenous feet.
The death toll reached 13,000.

The man who presided over their deaths,
Captain Henry Wirz,
Was put on trial for war crimes.

Stories began flooding the Northern newspapers:
Photographs of survivors starved into living skeletons,
Like nothing the world had seen before,
And would not see again
Until the end of World War II.

Wirz was found guilty of
Cruelty,
Shooting,
Beating,
Turning dogs loose on prisoners,
Such nameless blasphemy and ribald jest,
As to exhibit him rather as a demon than a man.

So why erect a monument to a demon?

To recast him as a martyr.
To rescue his name from the stigma attached to it

By embittered prejudice.


Poem found in “Weekend Read: Executed for committing war crimes—then honored with a Confederate monument,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 8, 2018

Asylum: A found poem

Asylum

In a bare compound off a dirt road:
Bureaucrats
Borders
Migrants.

They want to escape:
Dust
Joblessness
Poverty
Persecution.

If the answer is yes,
They are spared the risky journey
Through the desert
And on the deadly boats.

“We’re here to stop people from dying,“
Said the deputy,
But few are actually approved.
The message:
“Stay home.
Do not risk a perilous journey
For a claim that would be denied.”

Humanitarian ideals
Striking out:
New methods,
Questionable results.
Something has shifted.

The bus stations are empty.
The police check identity documents.
A sign outside bears the flag
And warns passengers not to travel without papers.

“Those with legitimate claims have a chance.”
But it is very low.
“We can’t welcome everybody.”
It is a policy without heart.

The smugglers herd together:
Beat them,
Rape them,
Extort money.
Some are sold into slavery
Before being loaded onto rickety boats.

Officials look for cases
Whose persecution might qualify.
In a day of interviews
At the sweltering center
Candidates waited pensively
Looking resigned as they sat on benches.

A refugee
Showed scars on her body
And on her 2-year-old child.

A woman
Asked whether she ever phoned her family:
“I never tell them where I am”

A girl
Who spent time in a camp:
“If I return, they will put me underground.”

After nearly two hours a verdict finally came:
“You will have the right to enter legally,
You will be granted a residence permit,
You will be given accommodations
You will have the right to work.”

Barely.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Poem found in French Outpost in African Migrant Hub, Asylum for a Select Few, The New York Times, February 25, 2018