Frail Envelope of Flesh, from "Poems of the Nakba"
by Michael R. Burch
for the mothers and children of Gaza
Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...
Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this—
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...
Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...
Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters
with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a
young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept
popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers
and children of Gaza and the Nakba. The word Nakba is Arabic for "Catastrophe."
The children of Gaza and their parents know all too well how fragile life and human happiness
can be. What can I say, but that I hope, dream, wish and pray that one day
ruthless men will no longer have power over the lives and happiness of
innocents? Women, children and babies are not "terrorists," so why are they being
punished collectively for the "crime" of having been born "wrong"? How can the
government of Israel practice systematic racism and apartheid, and how can the
government of the United States fund and support such barbarism?