As children we’re taught to love
our neighbors as ourselves.
But as our bones grow we learn
to replace faith in love with fences—
our definitions shrink with age
until brotherhood is bound by borders.
The cries of Hutu and Fur sleep
in the dark blood of earth
we pump in our cars.
Their silence confirms
life is worth more in some places.
CONFIRMING THE CRIME
Friday morning, March,
Six years in,
The floor of the U.N. assembly
Fills with alliteration:
Callous and calculated…
And Confirming the crime…
The careful selection of syllables
Hopes to impress
Like a sixteen-year-old
On a date, or in class.
But both date and teacher
See through the sounds,
Know that beneath them
Is something short of real.
In response, tragically true words come:
The decision of the government
Of Sudan is a legitimate
Which we will never reverse,
And this should not be an issue for discussion.
CAPTURING WHAT IT CAN
The baggy green uniform,
Wrapped, tucked, twisted
About face and neck
Protecting from bugs, heat, sun.
This is the first photo she takes.
A gun strap hangs over his right shoulder.
A red baseball caps sits loosely
Atop the blanket on his head.
After the photo,
He says to the woman, white,
Surrounded by U.N. soldiers, local officials,
The camera capturing what it can of his face:
Here you have educated men,
Men who have gone to University,
Construction workers, carpenters,
Men who could make a living
If there was not a war.
The woman asks of him what they do to the women,
Why they do what they do to the women—
Her interpreter speaks for some time.
The soldier shakes his head, laughs,
Pushes the question away with his hands,
We have an antidote,
Roots we can take from the bush.
We take those roots,
We cannot get AIDS.
“Confirming the Crime” contains some words from and inspired by the Reutersarticle “Sudan Says to Never Reverse Decision to Expel NGOs” by Louis Charbonneau.
“Capturing What It Can” contains some words from and inspired by the documentary film The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo directed by Lisa F. Jackson.
Brian Burmeister teaches communication at Iowa State University. He is a regular contributor at Cleaver Magazine, and his writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He can be followed on Twitter: @bdburmeister.