Family Photo

Family Photo
Growing Up

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sanctuary

I've been apolitical this summer, exhausted by headlines and cable news horror stories. Though I can largely drown my concerns in the kids' swimming and water polo, several immigrant stories have ripped at my heart.

A father of two was deported out of the blue. He had no criminal record and was  flown to Indonesia within two days of his detention. His wife and teenage son are left to mourn their husband and father, as well as the son and brother who died several years ago. The boy's grave is here.

A young mother arrested and deported to Juarez, leaving behind three tiny girls under the age of four. She writes of her shock and heartbreak from a distant cousin's twin bed, trying to make a path to reunite with her babies. We contribute to a fund for childcare.

My daughter returned from a mission trip to Nogales, Mexico, telling stories of a man who was deported from Las Vegas. He lived in the US for 47 years and had his papers, including a green card. They were at his house when he was arrested, but ICE would not make a detour. He awaits his court case from Mexico.

I wrote the poem, Sanctuary, using the common wording of invitations from the American Friends Service Committee, or Quakers. The AFSC's local invitations to eat, dance, sing and participate in action all begin with the phrase, "In the shelter of the people." The AFSC is a driving force behind the Sanctuary movement, and the miracle of community protection, of sanctuary provided to fathers and mothers and children awaiting court cases, provides hope for immigrants and residents alike.


Sanctuary

Take refuge in the shelter of the people.
Sagging upper arms and aging bodies
Hold stronger than drywall or doorframe,
Support without suffocating,
Brace the locked door or swing open in welcome.

In the shelter of the people
Elders karaoke to Juan Gabriel or Beyoncé,
Swap off-key notes in alternating accents,
Salsa across wood floors, hips abrading pew benches
Or hoisting brown-skinned babies.

In the shelter of the people
No one can be discarded,
Thrown away like fingernail clippings,
Coffee grounds or last week's news.
No. We're connected by sinew, smile, heartbeat.

In the shelter of the people
Migrants live in welcome, not “go back where you came from.”
Visitors play tag with toddlers on church steps,
Prepare passports for babies we accept
To visit parents we reject.

In the shelter of the people
Mourners grieve the ones deported to Jakarta or Juarez,
Encircle the left-behind, hold hard around the gap.
Remembering shoulder-shape, a body’s warmth,
Linked arms pretend weakness, a nest knit from twigs.

The church building, a shell,
Echoes with forgotten mercies.
From aging windows a boy watches bulldozers raze
Next-door. Cottonwood roots claw the sky
Over earthen scar where family home once stood.

The boy hides like justice,
Refuses to play when cameras pry,
Frowns as reporters nod sagely,
"All countries need a scapegoat."
He knows this truth -

In the shelter of each other, the people do not.


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