Bush said he couldn’t think of a more appropriate term. In fact, a toddler who has just drowned bears dreadful buoyancy. Washing up on the beach—a broken doll that is white, stiff, and cold, amidst all the other objects that join the seaweed in weaving a blanket for stones. There are belt buckles, ball caps, all manner of clothes & useless maps, leading nowhere now, the shattered plastic of a yellow raft (disastrous, fractured sun). His mother and his five-year old brother are under the blanket, too. Yet this tiny body, laid out by the tide, is the specter that the cameras are drawn to.
The ocean makes this memorial to those lost, washed under the tide, fleeing Iraq & Iran, as well as Syria & other shattered lands. They are leaving the ruined temples of Palmyra, the sex-slavers, hunger and bombs. Like the tide, unstoppable, they come—as sand-fleas hopping over bladder wrack, then as ants flooding into the EU kitchen, under windowsills and up the drains, following natural laws that demand you flee from danger. Survivors seek viability.
At the train stations they swarm in, despite fear of the past. Desperation leaves no time for history. The earth’s magnetism drives them on. Unstoppable, they even board packed train cars headed to camps in Germany. Voluntarily. They allow the soldiers to scrawl long strings of numbers on their arms. They spare just a moment to hope that it isn’t permanent marker, and to hope that economics won’t Trump common mercy.
Meanwhile, the politicians sit at their tables playing spin the bottle to decide who takes a turn at allowing these ants to their picnic—who agrees to abstain, just for now, from lowering his heel, and from crushing. They are coming. They are coming.
The Hungarian, Orban, Minister of Mercy, fears for the history of Christian Europe. I suppose it depends what “Christianity” means. Closing the borders and emptying trains, he is the Exodus Pharaoh, now. The ants (fleas, mothers and babies) rock his world, crying, “Let my people go.”
I can’t claim to know for certain what “suffer little children to come to me” means. I recall the Sunday-School pictures of happy children playing with Jesus in the grass. They definitely were not drowning. So I hope, and am fairly certain, that it didn’t mean this. Not allowing our apathy and avarice, our entitlements and establishments, to justify the hands that sign papers, commissioning factories built of policies that coldly breed more anchor babies.
Meanwhile, on the Turkish coast, an anonymous fisherman cries into a newborn galaxy. He says,
“I came to the sea, and I was scared. My heart was broken.”
The reporters wash onto the cold beach now. They hop like seagulls and squawk with ambition, with industry. They weave themselves into the tapestry the ocean is making from plastic, dead children, and clothes. They create a million stars as they fire the new galaxy with cameras and questions. An officer picks up the broken doll, but holds him away from himself. This is not a child to be cuddled now. Who knows his name? The seagulls are scrambling. He is an incendiary piece of the rubble that needs to be bustled away.
His body is taken behind some rocks, presumably to wait for the somber trucks. Where will he go from here? Not to the playground. Not to a warm bed. Not to the aching arms of family, arms now limp as rotting carrots by the sink. Those of us watching in horror through the flash of the starlight bulbs cannot know. It is a mystery, what becomes of anchor babies.
Leslie Linder, M.Div., lives and works in Downeast Maine. She contributes a regular column entitled, “Child of Artemis” to SageWoman Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in the Project Intersect Journal of Radical Ecofeminism and on www.worldpeacewriters.org.