A mother cradles her child against her thin breast
And gazes sadly into deep shining eyes, a mirror of her own
The infant cries, wanting milk
But there is none to give
The woman has not eaten in days
And her breasts are dry as the bone-cracked land that surrounds them
She whispers into his ear
A single word
Suddenly the stars rearrange
Painting perfect patterns in the inky sky
All around the world, cities fall silent
Apologizing for their constant pandemonium
Mothers look at the sky, listen to the stars, and whisper
The word flows from mother to child
Cracked lips to soft ears
The newborns remember without understanding
Years later, as the world writhes in war
The word ricochets in the grown children’s minds,
and they drop their weapons
Silent, thoughtful. They turn their heads to the sky, and again,
the stars sing.
Curator's note: This poem tied for first place in the Youth (13-18) category of the 2007 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Awards, a worldwide contest. Visit this link for more information.
Art credit: "A mother and child at an emergency feeding centre, Senegal, 2005," photograph by Finbarr O'Reilly.