Have you heard of the term “Bystander efffect”. This came about after a 28 year old woman, Kitty, was raped, stabbed and murdered outside her apartment while 38 people looked on and did nothing.
This led to a research carried out in 1969, five years after Kitty’s murder, which was termed Bystander Apathy (effect). Basically, it proved that the more people there are available in an emergency situation, the less likelihood there is for someone to intervene.
Today’s poem reminds me of this story and forgive me for starting this post with a downer. But, I thought to share it because I believe we all need a reminder that as heavy as our words, our silence is also heavy too.
Town watches them take Alfonso by Ilya Kaminsky
Now each of us is
a witness stand:
Vasenka watches us watch four soldiers throw Alfonso Barabinski on the sidewalk.
We let them take him, all of us cowards.
What we don’t say
we carry in our suitcases, coat pockets, our nostrils.
Across the street they wash him with fire hoses. First he screams,
then he stops.
So much sunlight—
a t-shirt falls off a clothes line and an old man stops, picks it up, presses it to his face.
Neighbors line up to watch him thrown on a sidewalk like a vaudeville act: Ta Da.
In so much sunlight—
how each of us
is a witness stand:
They take Alfonso
And no one stands up. Our silence stands up for us.