There is no good data
About the effect of tear gas
On migrant children, save
That we know they will cry.
We cannot be sure of the effect
Of being held in your mother’s arms,
Your belly full of her milk, or being hungry;
Of being barefoot, if the heat rising
From the dirty sand will burn off the gas
Like the winter sun does with fog,
Revealing a deer and her two fawns
Crossing the highway.
We have no good data
On the impact of looking
At your open hand and knowing
It closed around poison, the canister
Warm metal, only a little larger
Than the ridged cranberry sauce
Your family ate without you.
We don’t have any imaging
About what lights up in your brain,
A secret crown made of gold and red
Perfusion, ambivalent excitation;
Whether it is your hippocampus or deeper,
The stem inside you, the root of your self,
If not your soul.
No one will sign off on the studies.
Daisy Bassen is a practicing psychiatrist and poet based in Rhode Island. She was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, a finalist in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Poetry, and a nominee for the 2019 Pushcart Prize.
Photo by Annie Spratt.