I Speak of the Forgotten: for the nameless

Allison Haines


“a novelty today, tomorrow a ruin from the past, buried and resurrected every day,”

this is humanity, preoccupied with meaningless toil, tiny beings, limited yet infinite, who turn to the stars for answers to existence,

we look at the oceans, the possibilities before us, we feel we might drown,

all searching for a saviour, in desperation more vast than the heavens,

running en masse, away from the looming certainty of pain, fearing obscurity, and attempting to

hide from the inescapable Death,

when we love, when we die—are we not all the same?—we are one, we are different, we are

nothing at all,

we disappear from the world, powerless in the current of our lives, swept away by time,

I speak of the lost, the soldiers who fail to return, the departed loves, the absent fathers, the

runaways, the aimless dreamers searching for a path,

I speak of the forgotten, the wilting flowers, the broken windows, the frozen faces on the


together in nothingness, alone in shared misery,

conveniently pushed aside by the ones who want for nothing and refuse to care,

one day they awoke, one day they died, and the sun rose again,

on and on, regardless of the changing world,

the souls no one has time for, when there are better things to do:

I speak of those only helped when they are in fashion, ignored on a whim,

of those left alone by a world more interested in new video games, in pop songs, in the latest hashtags and celebrity outfits,
of passing fads who seem to matter less than the winner of a football game—

I speak of the families murdered in Aleppo,

I speak of the prejudged innocents being shot in their cars,

of unarmed fathers who die from misplaced fear and biased hatred,

of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Korynn Gaines, Freddie Gray,

I speak of the lives cut short by bullets and bombs, of African American churches, mosques,

movie theatres, Columbine, and Sandy Hook,

I speak of the oppressed, of lovers banned from matrimony, of women who are losing control

of their bodies, of torn hijabs, of blazing buses,

I speak of the reduced prison sentences, of the woman whose integrity is ripped away,

the violated, destroyed by lust and violent greed,

tossed aside like garbage, now someone else’s problem, tattered childhood drawings no one

will miss,

headlines who are glanced at for fifteen minutes, no more,

I speak of the homicide victims and unconsoled families, screaming in the darkness,

bleeding into their earthen chambers, the numbers on case files that grow dustier every day,

of the mugged and the robbed, who learn that losing everything means nothing,

of the poor and depraved, who learn that having nothing means everything,

I speak of the addicts, the shattered bottles and bent needles, the shifty eyes, the helpless who

tremble in the night,

I speak of the children whose clothes have cigarette burns,

of the broken arms, the bruised minds, the blackened eyes shrouded in makeup and denial,

I speak of the teenagers who finger a gun, of the homemade nooses, swallowed pills, and

bloody razors,

of the silently struggling who think pain is weakness, of the undiagnosed sufferers with

nowhere to turn, the bullied, the disabled, the mentally ill who cannot afford help,

the candlelight vigils, flower-draped services, photograph tributes scrolled past on social


I speak of the cats abandoned in shelters, the euthanized barks echoing in empty hallways, the packed slaughterhouses,

of the extinct species no one protected, the endangered beauty disregarded,

I speak of the disappearing ozone people neglect to believe in, the noxious selfishness

destroying the earth,

I speak of the overlooked, the despondent, the missing, the Unseen,

of the worst war-torn regions, out of sight, out of mind,

of Muslims in Xinjiang camps, of starving skeletons in Yemen,

of the elderly who expire like cans on a basement shelf,

of the parents who skip dinner so their baby can eat,

of the long lines at soup kitchens, the pleading eyes, the empty wallets, and the abandoned


of so many others, too many to name, whose lives fly by like dry leaves in the wind,

crushed underfoot, gone in the blink of an eye, replaced anew every year on growing branches,

they are the unheard whispers, the invisibles, the things left behind by a world with a

penchant for distraction,

we say we remember them, but then why are they ignored?

is it really so much to ask, for us to help our brothers, especially when they lose themselves?

in a world with so much, we should not give so little—

I speak of time, far more precious than jewels, money, or gold, easy for all to find and to

share, the greatest gift in the universe,

yet we guard ourselves from others, with excuses, with suppressed guilt,

abandoning generosity in our quest for eternity, not looking back, though others fall behind:

I speak of the forgotten, the lost, the broken,

I speak for them, because they would speak for me.


*Based on “I Speak of the City” by Octavio Paz

This poem was first published as part of LSESU Amnesty International Society’s annual human rights journal “A Climate of Change.”

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