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Monday, July 09, 2018


by Mary K O'Melveny

Man’s Incivility to Man by Tom Tomorrow posted July 3rd, 2018 at TheNib

Aisles that were once filled with jeans
house metal cages built from cyclone
fencing.  One can hear toddlers’ screams
filling up the air, cutting to bone.

Across the country, mothers’ keens
echo into night.  They too are prone
to constant sorrows. Who can shed such scenes?
These are sins for which we must atone.

Surely, thoughts of disappeared teens,
breast-feeding babes, disoriented, flown
by night to unknown places, unseen
by anyone who knows them, alone

in their fears, fates left to news magazines
or strangers who cannot translate each moan
and wail and are not paid to do so, means
that public outrage can be shown

to those who devised such schemes,
oblivious to their human toll, backbones
bending like prairie grasses.  Perhaps it seems
right to them, stealing children at border zones,

sending a tough message to libertines
who would welcome anyone, who drone
on about human rights while the world’s seams
unravel like some cheap suit.  Those who bemoan

these desperate stories, as cold machines
of detention and terror ramp up, are prone
to sympathy for families steeped in scenes
of unfathomable anguish and unknown

outcomes.  Some know these horrors mean
lifelong damage, not just tears caught on cell phones.
Inevitably, reactions fill up with spleen,
Commentators and politicians bemoan

a lack of civil discourse.  Fury, it seems,
is too raw for a democracy, even as we alone
return to old auction block agonies.  Between
families rendered helpless and politicians prone

to lies, how can we react as if our TV screens
are filled with Mister Rogers?  The gauntlet is thrown.
Moments for calm debate have long passed.  Ravines
divide us now.  Stolen children have set the tone.

When horrors perpetrated in our names are too extreme,
much more is required than consulting tomes
of manners.  Speaking truth to power may not be routine
but politeness won’t save the world we had known.

Mary K O'Melven
y is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals.  Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age will be published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2018.