Never (Always)

Never again
is not a statement of fact,
no matter how many times we repeat it.
As if we had never heard of Pol Pot, Srebernica, or Rwanda.
As if we hadn’t stood on the shore and watched children drown in the Mediterranean.
As if we hadn’t allowed them to suck water into their lungs,
grasping for their mothers and fathers,
as if we hadn’t watched them wash up dead on the beach,
as if we hadn’t watched their grandmothers dying on TV,
as if we hadn’t told their brothers and sisters to dig their own graves,
as if all that hadn’t happened again and again and again,
as if we have not always been capable of being both perpetrators and victims,
but usually bystanders, returning to our scheduled tasks.

Never again.
It is the stale breath leaving your lips each morning,
an arachnid’s web of exhaled hope and despair
the ghost of all your good intentions.

Never Again.
It is a prayer (the ragged “please” unspoken),
a description of the precipice and the void,
an admonition,
a lie,
a promise we did not intend to keep.

© Maria Haskins, 2017