When the forsaken city starts to burn,
after the men and children have fled,
stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn
back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn
the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread
in the forsaken city starting to burn.
Don’t flinch. Don’t join in.
Resist the righteous scurry and instead
stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn
your thoughts away from escape: the iron
gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.
When the forsaken city starts to burn,
surrender to your calling, show concern
for those who remain. Come to a dead
standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn
into something essential. Learn
the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead
when the forsaken city starts to burn.
Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.

Source: Poetry September 2012

Deborah Paredez

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