Look at that child
in his mother's arms!
His father sits disconsolate in the shadows
only feet away.
His mother swats away the gathering flies from
those big, brown questioning
yet vacuous eyes that only shed dry tears.
Father is filled with heart-ache and despair
A broken bread winner:
there is no manna in this unforgiving desert;
there is nothing to be done;
there is no Garden of Eden
to be sought or found in
this forbidding place once called Home.
They used to call it the Dark Continent--
so mysterious and inscrutable;
few from outside had ever ventured
to touch it, to feel it, to think it.
Formidable Continent that remains yet unwelcome;
the scourge of the earth--
devastated each succeeding decade
by drought and famine,
by war and hate.
Look again at that child
(though only one of millions)
skin stretched over fragile bones
crooked legs too weak to walk, not even hobble
long arms unable to lift food to mouth
little hands incapable even to grasp
his mother's teats--
though if he could,
there would be no nourishment there.
lips, unable to smile
stomach enlarged and swollen--
not by food but by terrible, gnawing,
crippling, murderous hunger--
gripping pangs of hunger
like broken nails across a chalkboard
only a stolid look on his face:
There is plenty of time to play
but the body cannot move.
There is plenty of food (elsewhere)
but not for him.
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His tragic, brittle frame will never be filled out.
Death will come for him too soon
but not before he is witness to the birth of a new brother--
someone else to take that same horrifying
journey into Hell!
Worms do not wait for death
but have already invaded his diminutive body
scurrying under his skin
across his torso
along the length of those nearly
transparent, diaphanous eyelids.
Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are not new strangers here--
they stalk like clawing demons
from the earth’s ugly bowels.
The dark child from the Dark Continent--
a striking contrast to the vast white, burning sands
beneath an expansive blue sky
and an unforgiving sun
(if only he were white, like the sand,
perhaps events would be different--
perhaps. . . .)
For him, however, heavy winds blow a whispering message
by him too clearly heard:
winds foreshadowing an ever-repeating cycle of damnation--
winds presaging the deafening onrush of
a howling, indifferent Stygian Void--
an unremitting Death that incessantly bellows
from the gaping cavities
of a bedraggled, depraved,
oppressively burdened earth--
a death that rides the winds like
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse;
winds that circumambulate the dunes and oases,
wending their unrelenting way
without purpose or direction
and with no pity--
not for the shamed father
or the famished mother
nor even for the bewildered child
forecasting all too simply a certain pitiless inevitability.
And, finally, not through the eye of his face
but through the eye of his mind
the child perceives the
Swift Forces running past each other like ghosts--
crisscrossing, screeching, hideous--
never ever, ever offering relief!
Look, once again, at that child in his mother’s arms!
He asks questions in silence.
We answer with a roar
but say Nothing!