Poetry as a response, Madaya

Wednesday mid-afternoon I got into my car to run an unexpected errand, turned on the radio, and heard a woman from Madaya, Syria, talking about the siege (the story is further on in the broadcast). The rest of the drive I kept thinking, “Sixteen.” Looking for the link, I learned more–all of it harrowing, heartbreaking.

Behind the Lines

Sixteen by hunger, that slow
shutting down, vanishing breath
by breath as the body must
consume itself. Sixteen dead
since aid rolled into Madaya,
the food and medicine mostly
stolen, mostly sold, help
in the hands that hold it and profit.
We hear of the bombs, the babies
drowning, the migration to wait
by fences but we learn less
of those left. Behind the lines
and land mines—what can you eat?
Leaves from the trees, grass,
any meat that still runs on four legs.
Thirty falling before those trucks came,
then the sixteen lost.
Thirty-three more on the verge.
Put faces on the numbers
and mouths on the faces
old and the young. A mother sees
her son down to his bones
and gone. Not even the doctors
can bring sustenance from air.
War is in the hands that hold it,
the same fists that grab the food.