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The Dark Continent

Look at that child

famine-600

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

--helpless, helpless.

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.

skin, ashen-gray

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

evil--evil--evil

no relief

no respite

only a stolid look on his face:

empty--

empty.

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

winds, winds--

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!

Rosemary Jenkins