Benicia Lights for Liberty: “A Long Way From Home” – Poem by Mary Susan Gast


By Mary Susan Gast
(Italics sung to the traditional spiritual tune, “Motherless Child”)
Nikki Basch Davis, Welcome To This World Little One (used with permission)

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a tossed-away child,
A long way from home,
A long way from home.

See, here’s the thing,
Mr. Candidate for the U.S. House of
Ms. Fox News Sage,
and other Assorted Apologists
for the detention of children,
The crying and the sobbing and the calling out
For Mami and Papi
That you write off
As nothing more than you’d hear
On a typical morning
At the neighborhood daycare dropoff,
Or that you equate to a summer camp experience,
Really is intrinsically, substantially, irreconcilably

At daycare—at least at the daycares I’ve known—
Nobody wrenches you away from your mother
While she’s nursing you,
Nobody wrestles your father away from you
While he screams your name and you scream in terror,
Nobody loads you on a plane and dumps you
In the middle of the night
In places with names like Grand Rapids or Topeka.
At summer camp nobody keeps you in a cage where you sleep
when you can, scrunched and contorted,
Tormented by lice, covered by the bleak aluminum wisp of a blanket,
Where you wake for weeks on end in the same soiled clothes,
Your cough untreated, your fears untended,
Stalked by nightmares that don’t dissipate with the dawn.
Where there is no play, no food that warms and nourishes,
Where the exuberant unruly energy for which childhood is noted
Withers, wailing and clutching its forsaken heart.

And most of all—
Listen up, here—
Most of all the difference is
That at the end of the day, at the end of camp,
The person who dropped you off
Picks you up, and takes you home, undamaged.
Back to the people who love you.

[I hope] Some day you’ll feel like an eagle in the air,
Some day you’ll fly like an eagle in the air,
Some day you’ll be like an eagle in the air,
A long way from home—no more!
You’ll find your way home.

Mary Susan Gast © 2018