“A Piece of Mother Teresa” by Frank De Canio

Paradise Lost – Press Premiere – The Press is seated, Caitlin Tobias

A Piece of Mother Teresa
(and Emma Lazarus)

I get a kick out of the way the smug
reporters of the border crisis at
cable news use the occasion to mug
before the cameras with a welcome mat
of sympathetic sermons for the plight
of immigrants. What use the photo ops
that put them in a laudatory light!
In truth, the misery will never stop
as long as they’re averse to volunteer
their services to feed and care for those
they love to talk about with cavalier 
regard. For it’s a picture-perfect pose
whose gloss photogenically counterfeits
the cost-intensive labor needed. It’s 

on par with someone in a car who tells
a passerby to help a blind man cross
the street while his complacent ego swells
with self-importance at another’s cost.
Instead of cursing the oppressive dark,
they’d do much more as avatars of light 
and jumpstart what alleviates the stark
conditions that inform the migrants’ plight.
But rather than assisting those exposed
as needing help, they show a cavalier
concern for the logistics thus imposed
on burned-out border guards. Thus, let them hear
the Saint advising those whose virtues foam
with smugness: “Charity begins at home”

and not in understaffed internment camps.
So, let us all begin to play a part
in making sure the migrants see our lamp’s
imprisoned lightning. This way they can start
to consummate their yearning to breathe free,
instead of hearing pols and cable news
pontificate with rank hypocrisy.
As such, each state should start collecting dues
from us for decent home facilities.
The lucky masses get East River views,
the rest will get no less civility
from mothers of exiles, glad to infuse
the difficulties refugees endure,
with domiciles they’re able to procure

for them. Though there’ll be hardships as to trials
of integration, from their beacon hands
glow worldwide welcomes and a thousand smiles.
For each and every mother understands
the difficulties settling here entails.
It’s when communal chic begins to shove
on them encumbrances that countervail
exigencies pertaining to self-love
that problems will ensue. The smug romance
of deference to others might give way
to scarcely granting even peers a glance.
But though ‘yours truly’ strikes them with dismay
when with my own concerns I start to yelp,
I’m sure there’ll be somebody who can help

those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
It’s when do-gooders have to pay you mind
that they then cease to be at liberty,
and leave their charitable mood behind
them. Not a nod do I receive from those
when I ask them to help me find a street,
beyond a sneer and a dismissive pose.
I should have done the same when asked to meet
with the selective service for the draft.
And, when our liberties are trampled on,
how liberally they look smug and laugh
when stringent terms for civic claims are drawn.
Thus, pray these champions of human rights
will not be in control of oversights.



Born and bred in New Jersey, Frank De Canio worked in New York City for many years. Writing as a hobby, he’s inspired by the poets Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, and Sylvia Plath and can be found at the Café Philo every other week in Lower Manhattan.