Maybe it’s because you didn’t have the dreams I had as a child,
brought on by houses replaced by ash,
thin mattresses on the living room floor,
stories of corpses floating ashore from Rwanda.
I didn’t know how to make fiction of that reality –
to make it belong to strangers too different from me to matter.
In my sleep, the pile of bodies had faces I recognized,
and the only thought in my mind was, run.
Maybe it’s because you don’t know the man I know,
who picked up my sick little boy from school
and tucked him into bed until I could come home to him.
A man covered in scars he got when he was a little boy
the day the soldiers came to his village,
and he and his bullet-riddled legs clung to his mother’s back
as she ran for the forest–for the border–
without any documents saying she could.
Maybe it’s because you don’t know that my daughter,
when I had food poisoning and a fever of 102,
still crawled into my bed in the middle of the night
and pressed her body tight against my aching stomach
after she woke up from a bad dream
because, even when it’s inconvenient,
children need their parents.
Even brown children, like mine.
Maybe it’s because when they told you,
safely sequestered nearly 2,000 miles away,
that this was the price you had to pay
for protection from infestation,
it went down easy, like canned peaches.
It didn’t echo in your ears
like Jewish rats and Tutsi cockroaches
or rise up, bitter with bile in the back of your throat.
Maybe that’s why you railed against the injustice
faced by a leader just doing his best,
and the importance of the rule of law,
and how the man before him is to blame,
but said nothing about the children.
I gave my word to hear you out,
so I bite my tongue until it bleeds,
and wonder if the blood we share is thick enough.