I went to read a story
to the children at Liberty Family Residence,
to hug-um up, show some love,
wrap them in caring with my warm arms.
One might think
that even if these children are homeless
and I am a stranger
they are children and resilient and these children
will do what children always do,
leap and learn and loudly boast their names,
push their wet and sticky,
lopsided crafts into my hands.
here at Liberty
the children are warm and safe.
I am funny – at least trying to be,
making faces and
I read a story about a brown bear
who tries to get a job,
while these children are surrounded by
red and yellow and blue/green
cushions and whimsical things,
toys that can beep and whir
and a murmuring teacher.
One might think
they will do what children do.
But only a few little ones
in this full classroom have
sparkle or shout
There is a 5-year old who says, “look at me, me, me!”
Take my picture. Cheese. Cheese.
He is all over the room, never sitting
even when asked,
even when asked again, he just cannot stop moving.
All his flash and action
against a backdrop of too many others,
too quietly, sitting. Obediently.
Sitting almost branch and stone-like at small tables.
I lean my ear close and closer
to the barely moving lips of a sweet brown-cheeked boy.
trying to catch the name he whispers once,
softly, only once
as if he dares not let go the breath
that will send the sound.
And he will not look at me.
Nor will the
teeny tiny beauty
with a wisp of a black pony tail and empty eyes,
She dabs purple glue aimlessly on a cardboard plate,
the round paper ears and nose, the chubby cotton balls
neglected on her table,
pieces of a polar bear with no mouth.
The children are not children.
They seem to say, silently
If we do not move
Nothing bad can happen
If we do not speak
we will be safe.
And that is true and not true.
I can only guess,
and don’t want to know
what led to some of these
shut up, locked down faces.
What was the war?
Who was left behind?
I only know that
our work is to hold them gently
like the precious seeds of our future they are,
kindle what still lives,
the strength that helped them survive
to this moment, to this warm and safe room
because they are the rescued.
They are the lucky ones,
lifting their hands
when I leave
to wave good-bye.