surviving injustice and violence is not a crime
watching your family, neighbor, best friend die is not a crime
leaving behind your business, your home in fear is not a crime
forcing a mother to watch her son be condemned
for crimes he did not commit should be a crime
having a child in a country not your own is not a crime
being raped as a teenager in a village that speaks a language that is almost extinct is not a crime
being raped is not a crime
rape and murder are crimes
being forced to build and carry your own cross for a crime does make you a criminal
no matter where you live
wanting to find a place to live without fear
wanting to find a place to heal is not a crime
wanting to be with your husband or brother or daughter is not a crime
when you hear this, do you step up to lift the weight, to ease their burden?
fleeing danger is not a crime
seeking asylum is not a crime
incarcerating victims of violence and rape and terror,
incarcerating people because of their skin color,
the languages they speak,
the god they worship should be a crime
will you, like Pilate wash your hands, claim it was the will of the masses, not your sin?
incarcerating people who have not committed a crime
incarcerating people because they are poor and vulnerable,
denying their humanity, ignoring their compassion
even in their own insufferable pain, ignoring
the gifts they offer these are crimes against humanity
will you be like the guards who lifted the son
on his third fall only to escort him to his crucifixion?
asking for Mercy is not a crime
what sacrifice what loss what heartsickness
Author's note: This poem is in response to the order from Attorney General Barr last week to not allow for asylum seekers, even those who pass the credible fear test, to request a bond hearing. This will perpetuate the mass incarceration through for-profit prison systems of people seeking to legally immigrate. For more information and to find ways to help, visit freedomforimmigrants.org and https://www.raicestexas.org
Lisa Eve Cheby's writing appears in various journals and anthologies such The Rumpus, Ghost Town, Ruminate, Tidal Basin Review, A cappella Zoo, Drawn to Marvel, and Coiled Serpent. She was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart and was a 2017 SAFTA Writer in Residence. Her chapbook, Love Lessons from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (DancingGirlPress, 2015) was featured in The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed Series. Lisa holds an MFA from Antioch and an MLIS from SJSU.