|Image source: CBC Radio|
Under the vest, something was ticking.
It ticked, ticked, ticked. A heart?
The faces all were human faces,
Salt-stained from the trail of tears
And the sea spray of their middle passage.
Their God was not our God,
But their children were our children
Discovered face down on the strand.
Treasures, buried in the sand.
In their passports we saw the faces
We recognized, or thought we did,
From last night’s news. The same? A match?
Anger, anguish, both unshaven
And praying in the same direction
To God, their God, the same, a match.
And there were babies, yes, and widows,
And gray professors speaking English—
No tests for mercy. No, the test
Was the twenty-year-old man whose face
We recognized, or thought we did;
Whose passport might encode an omen
Like scripture, entrails, curling smoke.
And so, interrogating those
Who came to us for mercy, we
Interrogated mercy in a chair:
Can hatred hide in suffering?
Can wisdom hide in fear?—
And so the line became a lineup
Eyed through a two-way mirror.
Amit Majmudar is a widely published poet, novelist, and essayist. His next book of poetry, Dothead, is forthcoming from Alfred A. Knopf in March 2016.