Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rachels Mourning

Posted by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group,
a Syrian opposition group, broadcast by AP
I see the picture this morning of a young masked man wielding a knife in the air over the heads of   captives and I am moved by his bare arm, his wrist, at his evident youth and ponder his own mother, somewhere and wonder if she recognizes that wrist and imagine what she might want to say to him, this beloved flesh of her own flesh and recall the mourning of Rachel, who will not be comforted, for the loss of all her sons and daughters, a horror wrapped in a tragedy that seems to know no end.


Your wrist is so small,
so clear
so young
so blemish free –
in your hand
the knife looks
like a toy
the kind you might
have gotten in a
Cracker Jack box
if Cracker Jacks
still had prizes
of any size to them

and that black stocking cap?
it’s too early for Halloween
don’t you know that?
and I know it’s got to be hot
under there – it’s 100 degrees outside

so wee man, why don’t you
put down your toys – you know
I don’t like it when you play
and I don’t care if the whole
neighborhood is in on the game
I am your mother and I do not
like it and if all your friends
would jump off a bridge, would
you jump too?  Well?  Would you?

and then my true worry begins
as I look to this imaginary child
of mine and realize he probably
would – jump too – and then
where will we be?

So, no, you cannot go back
outside after lunch – there will
be no jumping off bridges for
you today little boy - do you
hear me?  I am your mother!
Get back in this house right now!
It’s not safe out there for you.
And now I must fear it’s not
safe out there for them either.

Don’t you dare look at me like
that with that stupid mask on –
I am not afraid of you –
you look ridiculous
and I am not having it –
do you hear me?
Don’t you dare pretend
you don’t.  Look at me!

When did you become this machine
of rage?  When did doing unto others
before they even get the chance of
thinking of doing unto you become
our family’s creed?  When did this
happen?  While I wasn’t looking?
Well, I am your mother and I
do not like it one bit.  This is
most definitely not how I
raised you, so you get back in this
house right now!  I mean it!

Don’t you understand?
They will kill you.
Maybe not today.
Maybe not even tomorrow.
But they will kill you for this.
And I will become the mother
of a terrorist and the neighbors
will look on me with horror,
spawner of Satan that they will
believe me to be – that, or pity
and I cannot tell you which
is worse – you bring me shame
and I cannot endure it, so if
you’re going to kill them, you’d
better begin with me, for it is
me you are killing – the one who
gave you birth, gave you life

Where is my little boy?
The one I tucked in to bed
with laughter and stories
and one more glass of mai
and ‘oommee, I’m scared  – 
there’s a monster under
my bed’ and I wonder when
you went from being scared
of monsters to becoming one

and I cry out to the God that
you are not a monster, you are
my boy and I beg the God to
spare you your foolishness
and even as I mutter my
desperate prayer with its
obligatory  inshallah, I do
not mean it – in my heart
of hearts, for I cannot conceive
that any of this would be the God’s
will – for you, for me, for them,
for any of us – you must end this
for it is not yet too late – it will
be soon, but not yet, so please,

[I know the world has hurt
you and I have not kept you
safe from it and they see you
as a monster which tempts
you to become what they see
and it is not right and I know
you think you have no hope
and this is the only way and
it is just, so you’ve been told
by the men who know better
as they keep their own safe
distance from the bombs and
guns while they send you –
a child – and I know you feel
inside yourself you are a man
and yearn to do something for
your people, yourself and I
know the hurt and the shame
you carry within you, but son,
I also know this is not you –
who so tenderly loves the fresh
shoots of the garden in spring-
time and the baby lambs as
they nuzzle your cheek and
your little sister who needs
you to protect her and show
her our ways and this is not
you – their words not yours
– their lies given as dreams
not for you – I know you are
hurt and think the pain and
the injustice will never leave
your heart unless you do this
thing but I am your mother and
I carry the wisdom of ages inside
me and I know too that when you
kill their children, it will not
bring ours back and you will
sorrow but then it will be too
late and you will be one of them
the thing you never meant to
be – the thing that killed your own
for the wisdom of ages knows that
when you kill them, you kill
your self, you kill us, and your
hurt will not go away – it will
explode into the stars and it will
never go away because you will
become the hurt]

I beg you, my son, put down
the toys of war you have picked
up and come back in the house
and I will fix you an iftar worthy
of a king – or a little boy come
home for good – please, my
precious prodigal, do not do
this thing – I, your mother, am
begging you with my tears –
Do.  Not.  Do.  This.  Thing.


  1. How many mothers are praying this prayer today all over our world? Very moving, Beth. I will add my prayers to theirs.

    Love and peace,

    1. Too many, I fear. Thank you, Marilyn. Beth

  2. Very moving. I have such a heavy heart.

  3. Sadly, his mother may have taught him how to hate and whom to hate.

    1. That, then, would be a different poem, perhaps one you might write, eh?

  4. Powerful….Beth. Well Written!

  5. Perhaps the very words that God would also say to his children

    1. God as Rachel weeping for her children - it is a powerful and lasting image in my own heart.