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In the States I Didn't Know

In the States I didn't know
that statistics correspond to breathing,
living people.
that poverty is a crime
we all perpetrate.

In the States I didn't know
women who have their genitals cut.
Here it is almost every woman I pass.

In the States I didn't know
people whose houses are burnt down
and they are left with nothing -
not a bank account or back-up plan or asset
just the clothes on their back, the
love of a community and the
strength in generations of knowing that
to HAVE is not to BE
Here my best friend rebuilds his charred home
of sun-dried clay bricks and stones.

In the States I didn't know
couples who have lost their children
to things like
diarrhea malnutrition malaria
Here, in the past week I have talked to two
couples who have buried three babies each.

In the States I didn't know
people with
goiters birth defects infected wounds
that go untreated, uncured.
Here I wonder if my offering of aspirin or rubbing alcohol
acknowledgment or empathy
really helps.

In the States I didn't know
people who, without warning,
lose their minds to paranoia, schizophrenia, insanity
speaking tongues or empty words to no one at all
- or to the self they have somehow lost -
Here it happened to my brother in one day – today – Eid-Al-Adha – Tabaski –
the day of Sacrifice
(who knew he would sacrifice his mind?)

In the States
we say such occurrences are cases of
falling through the cracks
of a safety net
a social welfare system
a health care system
a government infrastructure
I didn't know
that in some places
there are no cracks.
there is no net at all.

In the States I didn't know
We don't even see these people falling.

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