The tears I cannot shed
Sit hot behind my eyes
Or throb in the heavy dark space between my temples
Sometimes they close my throat
And I am paralyzed, suspended in time,
Until with a gasp my breath comes again
With a surge of emotion.

The tears I cannot shed
Are ancient
Spanning the arc of a moral universe
That too often has bent away
From all that is right and good and just.
I pull hard
Adding my strength to the strength of all who have gone before
Straining every fiber
Bending my knees and lifting my feet off the ground
to add my dead weight to the effort
But it is no match for the opposing force.

The tears I cannot shed
Are for Maria,
Who dreams one day of becoming a kindergarten teacher
Passionate to help eager young minds
dream their own dreams of all that is possible.
In the chill of a desert night sixteen years ago
She was carried across the border
By a mother driven by her own dreams for her baby girl.
Now Maria lives every day in the terror
That the only country she has ever known
Will banish her
And her dreams with her
Alone and afraid.
To a place that is beyond tears.

The tears I cannot shed
Are for Tamika
Who kneels every day in the soft fresh grass
That covers her son’s grave.
Doubled over in grief, her legs stiffen under her
And she needs to reach out to the cold granite
To slowly pull herself upright as her tears darken the gray stone.
Why did she have to send him out for milk that night?
Why hadn’t she noticed the broken tail light?
Why hadn’t he kept his hands on the wheel
As she had taught him over and over again?
How could a grown man with a gun
Feel threatened by a sweet boy
With a gallon of milk?
Imprisoned by these unanswerable questions,
She wonders, “Must all our tears run dry
Before black lives matter?”

The tears I cannot shed
Are for Hasan and Daria,
A young couple who fled their Aleppo neighborhood on foot
after it was bombed to rubble
so that their unborn son might have a chance
at life.
Two years later, huddled in a plastic tent
In a squalid refugee camp,
They listen to the crackling sounds
Of a transistor radio just outside their tent.
Despite the papers granting them refugee status,
The American president
Has banned them from entering the U.S.
Daria’s scream awakens a sleeping Aziz
Whose cries pierce Hasan’s heart
As he wipes from his son’s face
The tears he cannot shed.

Debra Rose Brillati
March 2018


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