Words coming west, finding you--how?
Refreshed, plasticized, numbed, stunned;
Open to brothers and sisters
On the block, down the hill, around the world?
Do you deplore the spindly, small children
With huge bellies and squeezed-down faces
And instrumental ribs you could
Play a tune on with a tiny hammer?
Do your eyes try to avoid derelicts
Of a Bowery or a figure hunkered down
On a State Department grate in February;
A sacrifice on one of man's altars
But certainly not an offering to God;
And visions like the wounded eyes
Of a prisoner in solitary or just suffering;
So old in a young man's face; with horror
And maybe death lurking in swampy pools?
They fix and gaze passively
With a trace of madness, emanating
A sense of bewilderment and deep need:
But a hood like a lizard's warns:
Careful, do not get too close.
Yet he must need someone's love;
Everyone meeds love, don't they?
Perhaps some alcohol or coke
Has raped away the love of God
And left behind the stain of the world.
But what of warmth, a touch, affection;
The understanding look that says it all?
Is it found in a fetid cell;
The straitjacket; the foodless,
Enervating African village
Or the parched, cracked landscape
Of Asia where the monsoon is late
And emaciated animals and people wander
Looking for a drink and crops wither
Into dry stubs and blow away
In a hot wind that curses mankind?
How do you measure love?
Does it come in grams, pounds, tons?
Can anyone have some, or give some?
Okay interrogator, some answers.
Love is pumped from a vein
In a Red Cross Center.
It's a starving mother
With a thin, drooping black breast
Sucked dry by poverty, malnutrition
And a dying child.
Hands clasped in greeting
And confidence-building conversation
Through cold prison bars.
A smile, a quiet word, a look of concern;
A tense moment of parental discipline;
The laying on of hands
In a prayer for the sick.
An available shoulder or handkerchief offered
To soak up grief or its shower.
A few lines to a beautiful son
Too many thousands of miles away.