A little boy drowned off a Turkish coast.

His body washed to Bodrum’s shore, to father’s arms—
as did his mother’s and his brother’s too.
He looked like any sleeping
toddler—yours or mine. No difference
save luck, colliding stardust, place of birth.
And yet this theme holds sway, an echo so persistent:
We cannot let them come. They’re not our kind.

A tug from dimpled hands
turns me from laptop and the news.
We go outdoors to play in morning chill—
to eat tomatoes straight from waning vines
to chase small bubbles puffed into the air.
I watch her, and I feel
my chest compress and crack
under the weight of the absurd—
the ability of the world to hold
both in the same moment:
a child at play with water, dirt, and leaves
a child face down in sand and lapping waves.

So commit yourself to this, if nothing else:
shrug off the awful freedom that allows
us to bear witness to the drowned
but still insist
that only some are welcome to our gentler shores,
that only some small hands deserve
the quiet peace of morning play.




LEILA K. NORAKO is a scholar of medieval English literature and a poet who currently calls the San Francisco Bay Area home. She is fast at work on two poetry projects at present: a chapbook of poems about Iceland, and a series of poems that meditate on loss and its aftershocks. Starting this Fall, she will be an Assistant Professor of English at The University of Washington. She writes about the intersections of medieval and modern cultures on her blog, In Romaunce as We Rede, and also makes occasional appearances on Twitter (@Na_Pomaikai).