POSTCARDS / STEPHEN PUTNAM HUGHES AND EMILY ROSE STEVENSON
The morning newspaper stretches its wearied arms between my fingers and protrudes its chest close to my face as I sheepishly rub my nose. Headlines of suffering and terror run like lines of ants on its spine, their sight itself causing me to itch and scratch hastily. I pull its swollen belly away from my face- all that lives in these folds are cries of death. Its ugly mouth pronounces thousands dead and not ‘thousands died’, as if a statement declaring they were a mere consequence, an end product, a noun that sits straight no matter where it is put- unworthy of being a verb that goes on living. A parenthesis of outstretched arms robbed empty. Is it easier to print numbers instead of names, to only think of how many and not who all? To only count the number of bricks and not homes. Why is war more adaptable than humanity?
I want to fold its mouth shut and tear its limbs to pieces but it’s comforting to keep my hands engaged when they can do nothing to help. It’s a way to convince myself of my helplessness, to commit the act of awareness, to mourn and pray and pray and mourn until I can’t tell the difference between the two. God sits inside temples afraid of his children, I pity His divinity. I crack my knuckles and watch the sky buttoning a bright blue shirt on itself. I don’t feel angry. I feel angry about not feeling angry. I sit agape with a lack of power, impotence in the face of disaster, resentment and hatred, an aftermath. Why does violence only feel real when it spills blood on ‘our’ face? The distance between me and the victims is a shoe that prevents my toe from touching the barbaric floor, I long to feel their soles, and yet it’s a blessing I don’t, not yet at least. Only peace is inherited, inhumanity doesn’t know fathers and sons, it’s contagious to ignorant minds.
Hope is the thing with feathers, Dickinson said, but it’s merely an ostrich with three empty stomachs running barefoot on the ground in search of sky. Why does all viciousness begin at the womb of women and end in the mouth of children? Why are men either weapons or casualties? The pictures in the newspaper reek of rage and disgust in the mouth of a yelp, their pain is almost real to touch, and yet so distant that my fingers cry unscathed. Who taught us to read history as stories and not facts? A couple pages inside sits ‘good’ news with upright necks like false teeth in the mouth of an ailing man. The sky is changing clothes again and I wonder what it feels like to witness so much from a distance and yet have no hand to offer for help. I am more sky than myself these days.
Newspapers are a luxury in the hands of spectators, they bite our palms with cuts, an appeal to stand and act, a plea to hold faith and morality atop our lungs and fill our mouth with kindness that spills. They beg our eyes to implore to ease their days and restore their faith, to pick the grains if not plough the field, to contribute to aid if not be their shield. What are newspapers if not cries for help, what are we if not ears to lend? The morning newspaper now turns sideways on its back, tired from the weight of tragedies it carries. It shies away from my face as if its ugliness is its own and not mine, and not ours, as if we’re not the hands that pull away and mouths that shut as if we’re not walking omens of unkindness, as if we don’t sleep to a burning world and hope to be saved from the ashes. But today, we wake up to save the world.
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