The tyrant is mad! The tyrant is mad!
He rains bombs on innocent children!
Stop! I pray and watch on TV as
Syria is destroyed, cities laid
Waste. Dust and the stench of death
Fill the streets. Assad’s bombs
Murder man, woman and child.
Death does not discriminate, evil is
Loose upon the world — Run! Run!
Save the children! Gather your
Belongings and flee north,
Become pilgrims in this
Exodus of our murderous time.
Sojourners in foreign countries,
You did not choose this pilgrimage,
Assassins forced you out of your
Homes, your holy land. I pray
You find rest on Europe’s shores.
The children, Syria’s children,
Images burned in my soul. Cold and
Hungry, exhausted from walking —
Whose arms will open to greet you?
At dinner I eat a green salad
And feast on a delicious meal.
At night I take my sleep in
A warm December bed.
The weary months struggle into
January snow, New Year’s cold rains.
The pilgrims’ highway turns to mud.
The children sleep in cold tents
Under cold, wet blankets.
Thousands upon thousands exiled
From their homes, seeking new
Earth on which to rest.
What can I do? Pray nightly to la
Virgen Guadalupe, Mother of Mexico,
I beg you, gather the children in
Your blue robe, cover them with
Juan Diego’s tilma, spread a carpet
Of dark, red roses in their path.
Long ago el Santo Niño de Atocha
Delivered food to prisoners. Now
Humble saint, fill your basket with
Bread for the children. Deliver us
From our sins and our temptations,
I pray into long, restless nights.
My pleas fall like doom.
I am a haunted man. What good
Is prayer? The carnage continues.
Can I do more than watch TV?
Can I reach out and touch? Adopt
Two tortured children as my own?
Diane of the muddy, pink coat.
I stare into her blue eyes,
Swollen with fear, clinging to her
Parents’ hands, her pilgrim’s path
A prison of railroad tracks.
Efran, who drowned in the cold
Middle Sea, his body washed ashore.
Is this his pilgrim’s rest?
A million TV sets around the world
Flashed the image, a man picking
Up the frail, dead body, as one
Might gather a lovely, white gull
Drowned in the wine-dark sea.
Diane baptized by freezing rain,
Efran by a salty sea, I name you,
I baptize you now, my children,
Not images on TV but flesh and
Blood. Are my prayers answered?
The world sits down to dinner.
I am that man at dinner,
A haunted soul.
In the dooryard the apricot tree
Blooms, a bride in spring white.
Will my Diane ever dress in white?
My Efran find his way home?
The pilgrimage is not yet done.
Syria’s lost generation is still
At sea, on the road, prisoners in
Foreign camps, my children dying.
Do I have anger enough to fight?
Enough rage to save the children?
Compassion enough to offer
My home, my meals…
©Rudolfo Anaya, 2016
(Please contribute to agencies that are helping Syria’s children.)