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Thursday, May 13, 2021


by Julie Steiner

Look for the helpers, Mister Rogers said.
Whenever you feel sad or scared about
the news, look for the people helping out.
Keep those within your sight. Your heart. Your head.

It’s good advice. On days when all I’ve read
puts basic human decency in doubt,
and all I’ve heard’s what hurtful people shout,
I focus on the helpful folks instead.

Or try to. Sometimes all that’s in the frame
is evidence that helpers never came.

Two long, light-gray balloons, like downturned lips,
say several states withheld their rescue ships.

No helpers in the picture. Not this time.
But you can help bear witness to this crime.

A shipwreck off the Libyan coast has reportedly claimed the lives of 130 people, despite SOS calls for help, the UN migration agency IOM said on Friday [April 23]. The tragedy was confirmed late on Thursday by the volunteer rescue vessel Ocean Viking, which found dozens of bodies floating in the water northeast of Tripoli. It had been in distress since Wednesday morning, the NGO said in a statement. IOM spokesperson, Safa Msehli, told journalists in Geneva that the victims had been on board a rubber dinghy for two days before it sank in the central Mediterranean. “For two days, the NGO alarm phone, which is responsible for sending distress calls to the relevant maritime rescue centres in the region, has been calling on States to uphold their responsibilities towards these people and send rescue vessels. Unfortunately, that has not happened.” More than 500 people have drowned on the so-called Central Mediterranean sea route this year according to IOM—almost three times as many the same period last year. —UN News, April 23, 2021

Julie Steiner is a pseudonym in San Diego. Besides The New Verse News, the venues in which her poetry has appeared include the Able Muse Review, Rattle, Light, and the Asses of Parnassus.