If I’m Invisible to You

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The following is a poem I wrote a while ago.  It is dedicated to the children who inspired the Invisible Children movement, for more information check out http://www.invisiblechildren.com.

the soft thud of your footfalls haunt my dreams
i hear your calloused heals hit the dusty paths of beaten down earth
i watch as your thin body balances a small plastic bag in one hand
[contents: one tattered strip of cloth; translation: blanket]
while gently resting your other arm on my shoulder
[you do not notice i am there]
i smell the pungent odor of sweat mingled with sewage as we
walk on
we must be nearing the town
as we draw closer a smiles rises across your beautiful, sorrow- scarred face
in your eyes i watch the moonlight dance as you begin to stretch
your clenched body
soon i hear the litany of drumbeats calling out to us
and then i hear you laugh—
God, what a beautiful sound
laugh, as you lift your arm off my shoulder and run toward the glowing fire
[i rush forward after you]
i watch as you join thousands of faces—
all smiling
[trying to disguise the fear and sorrow i see still lurking there]
i watch as you dance in the street—
rhythmically beating your hips to the bass line that blares from some dollar-store radio
[checking my pockets, i wonder why i don’t have anything to offer you.  i sat down to eat with you only once today]
slowly the sun fades away into complete darkness
[and i push forward, put my arm around your shoulders]
and we begin to hurry towards the small basement nearby
[the size of my one bedroom apartment]
already our friends have arrived
121 of us
[i try to picture all of you in my apartment—sleeping on counter  tops and bookshelves]
you are expert clowns fitting children in a tiny car
i watch as you carefully unpack your plastic bag,
climb atop a pillar,
stretch out your blanket,
and close your eyes
[you don’t see me, but]
i stand by and listen till your breathing slows to sleep.
lean down and kiss your head goodnight.
and i stand by
whispering prayers
. . . God, i know you care for this child . . .
and i stand by
praying that i may ward off the demons that haunt you
and i stand
i stand.

they tell me that you are invisible.
that because your family bore you into another place, far away,
because you’re poor,
because you’re African,
that you are invisible.
and i know they’re right.
but i want to know why that’s true.
i want to know if i’m invisible too
if when i stand
with my dimes instead of dollars
my prayers instead of peace
if i’m invisible to you.

tomorrow we will repeat this pilgrimage.
you will haunt my dreams as we travel that long, dusty road
if i am invisible to you, i want you to know
you are not invisible to me.

 

 

 

 

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