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Tuesday, October 17, 2017


by Devon Balwit

Photo: Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh after crossing the Naf River this month. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped. By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes, she says. —The New York Times, October 11, 2017. 

It’s a story you tell and tell, each time entering
by a different scar: this the burned baby, this

the clubbed jaw, this the rapes, over and over.
Even when you say nothing, you tell it, your eyes

so loud others turn away, unable to bear it
as you one more flee the burning, naked.

Their own children paint similar pictures,
paining the aid workers: soldiers shooting,

the fallen, red sources, riverine. You drift
like a storm cloud until, again, there is too much

in you to hold, then you break. People fold
down their tent flaps. You understand. What

can be done with you—a hole with a voice,
a ghost with a body, an endless affront?

You shudder canvas as you pass. The next surge
swells. It runs through you. It mows you down.

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. Her poems have appeared in TheNewVerse.News, Poets Reading the News, Rattle, Redbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat's Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, What Rough Beast, and more.