there were 21

By Naomi McPeters


There were 21, marched along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea

The slow stride of death beside them, their heads lifted in victory

The last flashes of memory flowing from their eyes

Death clothed in shrouds of black behind them, unsheathing their knives

Eyes closed, lips moving in silent prayer to God

Souls open, praying for the end to come yet desperately holding to the last thread of life

Their captors behind

Speaking their piece in the name of their God

It is left for us to decide, which one of theirs answered

Late in the evening I keep re-seeing

21 faces approaching heaven’s door

Each of them believing

Their souls were worth saving

Some eyes staring forward, unblinking, uncovered

Their blood washed the waters of the Libyan shore

I watched until the tears were torn from my soul

As flames burned higher and blood flowed longer

I hate those masked men for bringing to life the evil inside

Keep the mask on, because that’s all I hate

Keep it on, because if I saw their face

Maybe then they’d become human to me again

It is those masks I hate

There can be no face to evil if they are all the same

No one left to blame

When the masks become mirrors.

My eyes see your ashes drifting down from the sky

The same sky that you navigated so easily

The cage they used to keep you it couldn’t hold you inside

The smoke rises like halos lifting your soul up to God

Don’t you think that He’s crying

But His tears couldn’t put out the flames

Couldn’t give you a way of escape

They only dripped while you were burning

Does God have no shame

Did He not see your white knuckles gripping the bars of that cage

Mind numbed from the terror, no memory flashes

As your body and bones turn to ashes

Did God not see

Your hands slowly raised to the heavens in one final plea

For mercy, then screams

I hear your agonized cries in the blackness of night

As your shriveled black bones from the fire provide light for the madmen

And your body is buried beneath the concrete prison

As your soul watches from heaven

Has God yet stopped his crying

Or did He shut His ears and stop listening

Turn a blind eye simply because He just couldn’t bear it

The men He created

So monstrous.

And you say here on earth lies the shadow of divinity?

The tears dripping from my eyes

When I can’t bear the evil

I listen

If only because it seems that God isn’t

There were 21 hands lifted that day towards the heavens

They say Christianity is the only religion

Where God reaches down to man

And man can’t climb his way up to God

But that day

Every hand was reaching

And not one of them taken

No majestic hand reaching down from heaven

Only rain

And the Mediterranean shore capturing the waves,

Turning them to crimson.