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A poem for the innocents

Geoffrey Philp

A poem for the innocents

A killing moon peeks through leaves

of trumpet trees in full bloom

for Lent, their barks crisscrossed

by wild strokes of a machete

when my son tried to help me weed

our garden, overrun with dandelions,

branches, leaves, a bounty of seed

and thorns, side by side, under clusters

of suns bursting through the branches.

Shadows flicker across the wall upstairs,

over Buzz Lightyear's grin, Mr. Potato

Head's sigh, and under a map

dotted with cities that fill his dreams.

What promises will I make

when I climb the stairs

before he falls asleep to the noise

of the television with cluster

bombs blooming in the sky

over Baghdad? What comfort

can I give him as I draw the sheets

over his shoulders, kiss his forehead,

when he worries that if he closes his eyes,

his Aunt Batsheva, half a world away,

will not rise from her bed in Gan Yavne,

thirty-seven miles west of Ramah

where Rachel wept for her children

and refused to be comforted.

The map over his bed now frightens

him, and I cannot convince him,

despite the miles and miles of oceans

and deserts, that the machete

under his bed will not make him safer,

any more than the sacrifice of innocents

will save us, for he knows,

he knows, somewhere

between the Tigris and Euphrates,

a wave of steel races toward Babylon.

—Geoffrey Philp (More info)