Taste the Water

When he arrived at the refugee camp
in Kenya, the missionaries stamped
his birth certificate Michael, his name
and age lost along the dry roads running
from Sudan where his stomach shrunk
and his throat cracked with thirst.

Only a boy, Michael’s parents died
for the drops of holy water sprinkled
on his forehead, forcing him to run
across a continent with hundreds
of parentless boys praying for salvation
to pour from the sky like summer rain.

In the United States, Michael calls me
teacher and tells me over the sound
of my dripping faucet how the other
boys would suck stagnant, brown water
from the morning mud to soothe the backs
of their throats, only to find the grit of sickness.

Finished, he shakes my hand and leaves
me in the kitchen, staring at the silver
neck of the faucet, the droplets forming
like melted glass, then falling and shattering
into a sea of smooth diamonds, rolling
away uncut, unspoken, and saving no one.

“Taste the Water” was published in Poetry Scene the Magazine in 2009 and Bird’s Eye ReView in 2012.

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