Child Armies

I am not well. My soul’s not dead but sick.
It cries for leeches; bloating, would be bled,
or freed in modern fashion from the toll
extracted here by Caesar’s rule; and there
by children scratching at the scabs they grow,
or would, would warlords let them once just be.

These children! They should sit in school or be
away at summer camps: get cramps, feel sick
a bit from biting melons that still grow
along the edge of fields. (When these fields bled
young brother’s blood filled up that ditch, and there
lay sister’s hand, she’s eight years old: the toll

of yet another spat.) These days the toll
of burial bells rings every noon, let be
at dawn, at dusk, at night. And over there,
across the cove on neighbors’ ground, the sick
hunch down: they’re scratching out the stumps of bled
and blasted fruit trees blown away. Here grow

no more the shady tops and trunks. Here grow
instead cracked rocks, some not tilled crops. The toll
among the children’s even worse. Who bled
their eyes of tears, daubed out where there should be
a sparkling glint of healthy fun? Eyes sick
and cynical: lies Lucifer in there,

where babies harbored happiness? It’s there,
among these baby brawler minds we grow
(yes, “we”) as fodder for a farce more sick
than serious or grand, I hear the toll
of hope’s demise, of what these tots could be.
Their bodies grow in spite of us (who bled

resources, poisoned what was left; who bled
these children’s humanness away). Is there
no place they can retreat, no crèche to be
created in once more, and, cuddled, grow
in graciousness, avoid the warrior’s toll
that levies suffocation, makes them sick?

These children warriors we have bred are sick.
Beheading them lets us postpone the toll
that nature wants as populations grow.

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