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By Deborah Paredez

When the forsaken city starts to burn,

after the men and children have fled,

stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn


back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn

the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread

in the forsaken city starting to burn.


Don’t flinch. Don’t join in.

Resist the righteous scurry and instead

stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn


your thoughts away from escape: the iron

gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.

When the forsaken city starts to burn,


surrender to your calling, show concern

for those who remain. Come to a dead

standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn


into something essential. Learn

the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead

when the forsaken city starts to burn.

Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.


Source: Poetry (September 2012)

  • Living
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Deborah Paredez
Deborah Paredez is cofounder and co-director of CantoMundo, a national organization for Latina/o poets. She lives in New York City where she teaches poetry and ethnic studies at Columbia University.

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