Geoffrey Philp
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A Poem for the Innocents 

A killing moon peeks through leaves
of trumpet trees in full bloom
for Lent, their barks still scarred
by the wild strokes of a machete
when my son tried to help me weed
our garden, overrun with dandelions,
carpeted with petals, a bounty of seed
and thorns, side by side, under clusters
of suns bursting through the branches

Shadows flicker across the wall upstairs,
over Buzz Lightyear’s grin, Mr. Potato
Head’s sigh, a collection of cards
and Harry Potter books under a map
dotted with the cities that fill his dreams.

What promises will I make
when I climb the stairs before
he falls asleep to the noise
from the television of cluster
bombs blooming in the sky
over Baghdad? What comfort
can I give him as I draw the sheets
over his shoulders, kiss his forehead,
when he worries that if he closes his eyes,
his Aunt Batsheva, half a world away,
will not rise from her bed in Gan Yavne,
thirty-seven miles west of Ramah
where Rachel wept for her children
because they were dead
and refused to be comforted—
who could stop her tears?

The map over his bed frightens
him, and I cannot convince him
despite the miles and miles of oceans
and deserts that the machete
under his bed will not make him safer,
any more than the sacrifice of innocents
will save us, for he knows,
he knows, somewhere
between the Tigris and Euphrates,
a wave of steel races toward Babylon.

March 22, 2003

From Dub Wise (Peepal Tree, 2010)

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Geoffrey Philp, an author from Jamaica, has written three children’s books, Marcus and the Amazons (Mabrak Books, 2011), Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories (Mabrak Books, 2012), and The Christmas Dutch Pot Baby (Mabrak Books, 2012); two collections of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien (Peepal Tree,1997) and Who’s Your Daddy? (Peepal Tree, 2009); a novel, Benjamin, My Son (Peepal Tree, 2003); and five poetry collections, Exodus and Other Poems (University of the Virgin Islands Press, 1990), Florida Bound (Peepal Tree, 1995), Hurricane Center (Peepal Tree, 1998), Xango Music (Peepal Tree, 2001), and Dub Wise (Peepal Tree, 2010). His work is represented in nearly every anthology of Caribbean literature, and he is one of the few writers whose work has been published in the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and the Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. He is currently working on a novel, Garvey’s Ghost, and a collection of poems, “The Orishas of Ives Dairy.”