First they came for the Muslims

First they came for the Muslims

A Poem by Michael R. Burch

First They Came For The Muslims
by Michael R. Burch

after Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Muslims
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the homosexuals
and I did not speak out
because I was not a homosexual.

Then they came for the feminists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a feminist.

Now when will they come for me
because I was too busy and too apathetic
to defend my sisters and brothers?

NOTE: My poem was inspired by and patterned after Martin Niemoller’s famous Holocaust poem. It has been published in Amnesty International’s Words That Burn anthology, which is used as a training resource for young human rights activists. Niemoller, a German pastor, supported Adolph Hitler in the early going, but ended up in a Nazi concentration camp and nearly lost his life. So his was a true poem based on his actual life experience. Keywords/Tags: Holocaust, genocide, apartheid, racism, intolerance, Jew, Jews, Muslim, Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, apathy, sisters, brothers, 

Islam, Islamic, God, religion, intolerance, race, racism, racist, discrimination, feminist, feminists, feminism, sexuality, gay, homosexual, homosexuals, LGBT
Epitaph for a Palestinian Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
I Pray Tonight
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza

I pray tonight
the starry light
might
surround you.

I pray
each day
that, come what may,
no dark thing confound you.

I pray ere tomorrow
an end to your sorrow.
May angels’ white chorales
sing, and astound you.
Such Tenderness
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers of Gaza

There was, in your touch, such tendernessas
only the dove on her mildest day has,
when she shelters downed fledglings beneath a warm wing
and coos to them softly, unable to sing.

What songs long forgotten occur to you now
a babe at each breast? What terrible vow
ripped from your throat like the thunder that day
can never hold severing lightnings at bay? 

Time taught you tendernesstime, oh, and love.
But love in the end is seldom enough ...
and time?insufficient to life’s brief task.
I can only admire, unable to ask

what is the source, whence comes the desire
of a woman to love as no God may require?



I, too, have a Dream ...
written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza

I, too, have a dream ...
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
My Nightmare ...
written by Michael R. Burch for the children of Gaza

I had a dream of Jesus!
Mama, his eyes were so kind!
But behind him I saw a billion Christians
hissing "You're nothing!," so blind.
For a Palestinian Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go ...
when lightning rails ...
when thunder howls ...
when hailstones scream ...
when winter scowls ...
when nights compound dark frosts with snow ...
where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Published by Tucumcari Literary Review, Romantics Quarterly, Poetry Life & Times and Victorian Violet Press (where it was nominated for a “Best of the Net”), The Contributor (a Nashville homeless newspaper), Siasat (Pakistan), and set to music as a part of the song cycle “The Children of Gaza” which has been performed in various European venues by the Palestinian soprano Dima Bawab
Frail Envelope of Flesh
by Michael R. Burch

for the mothers and children of Gaza 

Frail envelope of flesh,
lying cold on the surgeon’s table
with anguished eyes
like your mother’s eyes
and a heartbeat weak, unstable ...

Frail crucible of dust,
brief flower come to this
your tiny hand
in your mother’s hand
for a last bewildered kiss ...

Brief mayfly of a child,
to live two artless years!
Now your mother’s lips
seal up your lips
from the Deluge of her tears ...

Published by The Lyric, Promosaik (Germany), Setu (India) and Poetry Life & Times; translated into Arabic by Nizar Sartawi and into Italian by Mario Rigli

Note: The phrase "frail envelope of flesh" was one of my first encounters with the power of poetry, although I read it in a superhero comic book as a young boy (I forget which one). More than thirty years later, the line kept popping into my head, so I wrote this poem. I have dedicated it to the mothers and children of Gaza, who know all too well how fragile life and human happiness can be. What can I say, but that I hope, dream, wish and pray that one day ruthless men will no longer have power over the lives and happiness of innocents? Women, children and babies are not “terrorists” so why are they being punished collectively for the “crime” of having been born “wrong”? How can the government of Israel practice systematic racism and apartheid, and how can the government of the United States fund and support such a barbaric system?
who, US?
by Michael R. Burch

jesus was born 
a palestinian child
where there’s no Room 
for the meek and the mild

... and in bethlehem still 
to this day, lambs are born
to cries of “no Room!” 
and Puritanical scorn ...

under Herod, Trump, Bibi
their fates are the same
the slouching Beast mauls them
and WE have no shame:

“who’s to blame?”

(In the poem "US" means both the United States and "us" the people of the world, wherever we live. The name "jesus" is uncapitalized while "Room" is capitalized because it seems evangelical Christians are more concerned about land and not sharing it with the less fortunate, than the teachings of Jesus Christ. Also, Jesus and his parents were refugees for whom there was "no Room" to be found. What would Jesus think of Christian scorn for the less fortunate, one wonders? What would he think of people adopting his name for their religion, then voting for someone like Trump, as four out of five evangelical Christians did, according to exit polls?)
Excerpts from “Travels with Einstein”
by Michael R. Burch

I went to Berlin to learn wisdom
from Adolph. The wild spittle flew
as he screamed at me, with great conviction:
“Please despise me! I look like a Jew!”

So I flew off to ’Nam to learn wisdom
from tall Yankees who cursed “yellow” foes.
“If we lose this small square,” they informed me,
earth’s nations will fall, dominoes!”

I then sat at Christ’s feet to learn wisdom,
but his Book, from its genesis to close,
said: “Men can enslave their own brothers!”
(I soon noticed he lacked any clothes.)

So I traveled to bright Tel Aviv
where great scholars with lofty IQs
informed me that (since I’m an Arab)
I’m unfit to lick dirt from their shoes.  

At last, done with learning, I stumbled
to a well where the waters seemed sweet:
the mirage of American “justice.”
There I wept a real sea, in defeat.

Originally published by Café Dissensus
Starting from Scratch with Ol’ Scratch
by Michael R. Burch

for the Religious Right

Love, with a small, fatalistic sigh
went to the ovens. Please don’t bother to cry.
You could have saved her, but you were all tied up
complaining about the Jews to Reichmeister Grupp. 

Scratch that. You were born after World War II.
You had something more important to do:
while the children of the Nakba were perishing in Gaza
with the complicity of your government, you had a noble cause (a
religious tract against homosexual marriage
and various things gods and evangelists disparage.)

Jesus will grok you? Ah, yes, I’m quite sure
that your intentions were good and ineluctably pure.
After all, what the hell does he care about Palestinians?
Certainly, Christians were right about serfs, slaves and Indians.
Scratch that. You’re one of the Devil’s minions.

© 2020 Michael R. Burch


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Added on September 8, 2019
Last Updated on October 18, 2020
Tags: Holocaust, genocide, apartheid, racism, intolerance, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, apathy, sisters, brothers