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“I Can’t Feel My Heart”

in Immigration/U.S. by

The U.S. Inspector General
has discovered a link
between separating migrant children
from their parents
and symptoms of trauma
such as numbness
embodied in children’s statements
like “I can’t feel my heart”
or anguish expressed
in physical terms such as
“Every heartbeat hurts”
or even delusions
like that 7-year-old boy thinking
his father had been killed
and he was next up to die

This is not brilliance
nor discovery unless
you subscribe to the adage
everything old is new again
like what Harry Harlow
taught us 50 years ago
about parent-child attachments
and long-term suffering caused
by being yanked away
arbitrarily
from moms or dads

Thinking of Harry’s infant monkeys
trying to warm up to
their replacement wire mothers
brings to mind the color
gray
a good metaphor don’t you think
for the absence of feeling
and the actual color of chain link
surrounding the migrant kids’
makeshift shelters
even those silver space blankets
which are still gray
just all fancied up
and pretty thin on comfort

Lately I’ve been wondering
where all our so-called
better angels have gone
Maybe they stopped off in some dive bar
waiting for us to come
back to our senses
and lost track of time
numbing their own hearts
with serial stiff drinks
steeling themselves
for the inevitable next parade
of small wounded people
asking us all why
each desperately looking
for any open hand
willing to hold theirs
while they wait

 

________

Debbie Hall‘s poetry has been published in a number of journals and anthologies, including Poets Reading the News. She is the author of What Light I Have (2018, Main Street Rag Books) and Falling into the River (2020, The Poetry Box).

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