Social Justice Poetry

inaction poems

Gratuity | A Social Justice Poem by Carolyn Martin

The cabby’s black eyes bounce
between the car-clogged street
and his rearview.

My family? In Palestine?
Are they all right?

Chopped to bits,
my question hangs between
his swaying beads and me.

See what I have seen,
his eyes grip mine.
Grandfather – in his hut.
My  father – in our yard.
An uncle – on the road.
One shot. One shot. One shot.
Soldiers laugh. Children cry.
How can we be all right?

All I wanted was a Yes.
A chat about
the desert’s hot and cold,
a father herding goats,
a mother raising bread and sons.
I wanted pleasantries
to pass the time.
Not the cruel thrift of war.

A thousand lights turn green
before the practicality
of luggage, tickets, fare.

Port of Authority, he smiles,
unwinding from the driver’s seat.
I fumble through my wallet’s folds
and double his gratuity –
admitting only to myself,
I should not ask
until I want to know.