Exhibit at Chile’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights — Michelle M. Tokarczyk

You think the shards are all the same: Look again.
Glass shards in a room of glass. Orienting north,
south. Reflecting bodies darker, lighter.
Death can’t erase every difference.

Glass shards illuminate our way
through the tyranny of darkness
under Pinochet, and a roster of leaders
long enough to blanket the city.

Glass shards infuse our consciousness.
These terms—human rights, sanctuary,
habeas corpus—not words made flesh
but words wrapping flesh.

Glass shards in a room of glass.
Murdered faces captured on camera.
Waiting for death, watching the living,
who are (more or less) free and safe.

Glass shards in a room of glass.
Generations like trees chopped down.
So much lost oxygen. We mourn.
But watch new growth inch up.

Glass shards in a room of glass.
Pieces of a nation broken up, scattered.
Ellos están esperando
for a magnetic field to fuse them.

Glass shards in a room of glass.
The light at the exhibit’s height
The light at depravity’s depth. The light
in the reflections we see. If we look again.


Michelle M. Tokarczyk has published 2 poetry books: Bronx Migrations (Cherry Castle Publishing) and The House I’m Running From (West End Press). Her poems have also appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Unearthed, Third Wednesday, Writers Resist, the minnesota review, The Literary Review, and For a Living: The Poetry of Work. She has also published creative nonfiction and academic essays and books. Tokarczyk was born and raised in New York City in a working-class family. She earned a doctorate in English at SUNY Stony Brook and eventually got a tenure-track appointment–and tenure–at Goucher College. For many years she lived in both Baltimore and New York. Recently retired, she now lives full-time in New York City. She spends her time writing, studying Spanish, and volunteering with a local settlement house.