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Thursday, January 10, 2019


by Sean Murphy

An asylum seeker looks out from the trailer of a truck heading to the U.S. border with the so-called migrant caravan. Photograph by Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / Getty via The New Yorker illustrating "Searching for a Substantive Response to Trump’s Hateful Speech" by Masha Gessen, January 9, 2019.

This nightmare: the awful image of your scared daughter,
frantic inside a hastily assembled cage, crying for nobody.

Or to all those stone-faced and silent, heavily-armed officials,
standing around in uniformed circles: watching, and waiting

to do nothing; or rather, the one thing, the sanctioned thing:
just following their orders and etcetera, as usual, as always.

Never tempted or inclined to pause, reflect, and wonder how
He, the one whom everyone is obliged to obey, above all—

and whose sleepless armies wrathfully guard the gilded border
that serves to separate eternal darkness from light everlasting—

would fathom or abide disobedience and iniquity such as this,
an affront to what He offered as clear and sacred commission?

But then, who amongst us can claim to comprehend the evils
that might be lurking in the dark hearts of unfamiliar men or

their wives—shuttling the blessed burden all mothers carry—
in search of safety or shelter, however fleeting or uncertain?

And what follows next, when haven is granted, then imitated,
until this begets wave upon unbridled wave…finally drowning

our new world in its tired, poor, huddled, and massive wake . . .
never ceasing from the commotion it came here to accomplish?

And yet, aren’t human souls created in some unsullied image,
Bound to consecrated laws written not in books, but with fire—

According to He who judges all others in the midst of rulers:
Our Father, who enabled us to fall and, finally, be forgiven?

Who warned us to pray for lesser brethren—born to suffer—
and to remember, always: There but for the grace of God . . .

Go back to sleep, at ease with some absolution transferred
in sixty minutes every Sunday, the same day He rested and

beheld the work He’d made, finally dismayed by the shame
of us, declaring our earth too scarce for the meek to inherit.

Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha's Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of Virginia Center for Literary Arts. Twitter: @bullmurph.