Poetry

Because They Weren’t Us

By Nancy Machlis Rechtman

The images have been seared into our brains
Of babies ripped away from the arms of their mothers
And fathers
And children sobbing in cages
When the most primal of bonds were severed
By malice
And indifference.

Those seeking asylum chose to take such a grueling path
To a new life
And risked everything
For a better future
Since their own lives and the lives of their children were in mortal peril.
Yet what they envisioned
And what they found
Were oceans apart.

When desperation and hope merged
They fiercely hung on to the belief
That the promises of what our country could offer
Applied to everyone.
The Statue of Liberty welcoming the tired, the poor,
And the huddled masses,
A nation of hopes and dreams
Where everyone could become someone,
The land of milk and honey
Where food and money were plentiful –
When in reality
For them,
No welcome was found at all.

And the babies cried
And the children screamed
In cages where fear and loneliness consumed them
Where they were no longer protected or cherished
But all they knew was that they had been deserted
And were now alone in the world
Not knowing why love had been torn away from them
With no one to trust
Or hold them in the dark
Or kiss the hurt away
And the only way to cope was to shut down
And close themselves off from feelings
After the world had slammed the door shut on them.

There is a deep-rooted trauma inside these children now
That might never be healed
Even if one day their parents can be found
Because they’ve suffered so much
And been so grievously harmed
Beyond anything words can express.

There’s a hole in the heart
Which can’t be plugged up
Once you’re deemed less than human
And your life is relegated to the Do Not Care file
Where intolerance and hatred have ruled.

And while things are getting better
It doesn’t mean it’s over.
And people wonder if it is possible for the broken pieces of these families
To ever be put back together
Now that they have learned that just below the surface
In the promise of this beautiful land of ours
Is our national shame
Comprised of tarnish and rust
And bigotry and xenophobia
Where their humanity is irrelevant.

So many people who have loudly and piously proclaimed themselves to be good and kind
And insisted that life is precious – but they never clarified that it meant only theirs –
Found fairy tales to tell their own children
Well-fed and curled up in cozy beds in warm homes
Justifying why it was OK to destroy families
And tear heartbroken children from their mothers’ arms
When those people “didn’t look like us”
Or “talk like us”
Because they weren’t us.

###

Nancy Machlis Rechtman has had poetry published in Literary Yard, in Paper Dragon, and in Page & Spine, a short story published in Academy of the Heart and Mind,  stories published in Highlights Magazine for Children, stories published in several other children’s magazines, plus she has had several children’s plays both produced and published. She wrote freelance Lifestyle stories for a local newspaper, and she was the copy editor for another local paper.

Categories: Poetry

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