We speak of this thing called ‘justice’.
It drips salaciously from the ruby red lips of kings and queens,
Those of us born with the luxury of choice,
Who have not had a stone cold pavement pressed to our cheeks.
It hangs from the banners of our proud church steeples,
The hallowed limestone hallways of our self-made museums.
We coat our words in justice, tie them to doves and send them up to heaven,
Plead with eyes closed for justice to come.
Eyes remain closed,
To the war of which kings and queens need never know.
One that rages on the outermost fringe of our borders, the very least of our concerns.
Yes, justice tickles our conscience. But the lack of it –
It is the war that rips our brothers and sisters – dear sisters! – into one million pieces,
Each smaller than the last.
There are few to beat back the hounds of commerce and comfort who soldier, day and night
To make us forget that each piece of human flesh can be purchased
For spare change, discarded, for our next fleeting pleasure.
Bastions of dignity, groaning beneath wave after wave of violence
In the home, the brothel, the prison
In our very laws.
Crashing waves beyond our hearing, beyond the distant shores of our castles,
The very shores that rise, year on year, to an unwilling meeting with the sun.
Temperatures, they rise; the scorched earth, cries foul.
A far-off war ushers in false enmity
Between the beggar on our doorstep, and the refugee languishing in a dark cell.
From our vapid thrones, we toss up the life of one against the other.
But kings and queens, we forget that our compassion was deeper than oceans, once.
It was deeper than the grave.
But “Enough of the grave!”, we cried
We reached up to shackle ourselves to civility, a distaste for gloom,
Our indifferent tolerance of the war now feeds it.
My fellow kings and queens,
We forget our chains enthrone us, but our compassion frees us.
It tears down our walls, throws us violently from our towers,
After which, our feet will touch the ground for the very first time,
And we shall speak of ‘justice’, as we learn to walk it.
Photo credit: Hartwig HKD