“One Defense” by Rhina P. Espaillat

Rhina P. Espaillat


One man regards another as a brute,
like those his kinfolks purchased for their own
use, like cattle, invisible and mute.
But sometimes, unexpectedly alone
in the soul’s light—dim, but not wholly out—
the once-possessed confront him, and he sees
a horrifying likeness: There’s no doubt
this is a man. Even on his knees,
or shackled, or in flames, or dangling noosed,
clearly a man, like him. What strange distress:
The would-be repossessor is reduced
by silent accusations. How confess
the common human blood shared with this man?
He needs to shed that blood. And knows he can.

from Rattle #47, Spring 2015

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Rhina P. Espaillat: “The poem is a response to some of the non-personal but keenly felt ‘excitement’ on the political scene, some of which feels like a national illness.” (website)

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