What do you do
on the day you realize
that your decisions
the air you breathe
the choices you make
are linked to the oppression of others –
that who you are robs others of what
you take for granted, supports a caste system
you knew nothing of
because of your ignorance?

How do you sleep
once you recognize that
others cough, wheeze
succumb to deadly disease
because your comfort, instead of theirs
has been prioritized by
those you do not know
at a time you were not present
but you now are complicit
in spite of your ignorance?

Who are you
when you discover that
large swaths of
populations have
been subjected to laws, yet
pleas for justice were ignored,
leaving their infants dead
at much higher rates than your own–
their life expectancy decades lower than yours–
sentenced by your ignorance?

Where do you turn
when every option collapses,
drives you further in
or wedges you firmly
between calamitous odds
while you keep perpetuating
inhumane structures
you’ve come to despise and yet
support, unintentionally – unmistakably
as a result of your ignorance?

Can ignorance be reversed
undone, redeemed,
can it be divorced
from its accompanying warring factions
of despair or complacency,
can it become a catalyst for
resolve, courage
or does it inevitably inflict
paralyzing guilt?

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Ivars Krutainis via


5 thoughts on “Marred

  1. Very powerful words Julia – you’ve captured something here that I think does paralyse many of us – how to make a difference against such ingrained systems, where to start? But perhaps questioning is the way to start, and, as Janet says, a way to sweep away complacency so that change can happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A superb poem and one never more applicable to the times we live in. Complacency is the key word…..and I fear that until individuals or populations actually experience first hand deprivation and horror…nothing changes. However, I do believe that huge changes are coming….they will have to. Wishing you a lovely day and week ahead…and may your creative juices continue to flow….janet. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet, complacency is directly linked to detachment. So you’re right: unless we experience injustice first hand – or somehow allow our comforts to be shaken, we will not join in the solution.
      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I also wish you a lovely week creating beauty which brings comfort and joy to so many. ❤️️

      Liked by 1 person

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