Dimpled Fingers

child poverty


Dimpled fingers
that reeked of crayon and ink,
riffled the fat book whose images depicted
thin children with unfamiliar skin-tones
from different races.

Blatant deprivation
is not pretty. The charity knew this.
Skin was scrubbed and wrapped in clean clothing.
The touched-up, sunrise smiles of these cute kids
seduced even the school-yard bully.

We opened our fists,
gave up our shillings to take an image home.
Girls chose girls, and all knew which boys
were school-yard romance material
by what gender they selected.

Oh, the virtuosity of
saving The Children Of The World
at the cost of a shilling!

My photograph girl
boasted exotic black-sheep curls,
milky cocoa skin, ebony eyes that, despite
the monochrome, shone brightly as if whites
had been soaked in my my mother’s bag blue.
Her smile suggested a regular pastime
of birthday treats, an ignorance
of hunger and misuse.

My mind reeled; beneath
a shameful pride for my ordained,
yet eager participation in the important cause,
lay a guilty sense of possession, as if, for a single silver coin
I had purchased this air-brushed ambassador for the tortured masses
whom the charity had prudently picked for prettiness;
In addition, I wriggled with a lonely wish
to know her;
to be her virtual sister.

Beyond these minor concerns
was a passionate desire to see change;
for the planet to become a safer place,
for the suffering
to cease.

My high ideals
did not admit reality;
I expected that our small gifts of charity
would banish misery and lack of subsistence
from the lives of the children
of this planet.


Years swept by.

explored the moon while Governments explored the possible profits
of war.

A millennium ended.
Technology crept, climbed and finally soared, defining our living rooms
and our lives.

Nations made threats
that ended in more bloody wars, boxing the love and spreading hate
and death.

Measuring each stretch toward maturity,
we graduated, reproduced, relocated, renovated,
decorated, celebrated, degenerated, regenerated, ruminated, educated,
succeeded, failed, grieved. Some of us ravaged, many raged
and a few he healed to make ready
for a fresh generation.

My dimples have long since creased into wrinkles.

Yet still,
after all that we have done and seen,
millions of children
suffer and die,
too weak
to fight,
too broken


Thanks go to Ivor, who inspired this poem with his recent rash of compassionate posts about the suffering of children.

©Jane Paterson Basil

24 thoughts on “Dimpled Fingers

  1. Oh dear Jane, I’ve just woken up, laying snug in my warm bed, reading your incredible poem, and my phone technology is feeling like a childs suffering wrists in my hand. And my tears are splashing down upon the illuminated screen of your powerful and poignant words to your readers around the world, and with your permission I’d like to reblog your awesome work. You’ve touched heart and caressed my soul with your passionate response. xxxx ☺️

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So sad to think that all we’ve done has still led us to where we are today. I hardly know what progress is anymore. Beyond beautiful write that truly allows those sad thoughts of misguided belief we all had as children sink in. May we change this somehow, some way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This totally reminds me of “Sunny Smiles” used by the Methodist Missionary Society in UK when I was a young boy, travelling miles on my bike to try to sell all of my pictures. People were very generous even though they had little themselves. However, we do not seem to have changed things at all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your message – I really appreciate it. It answered a question I’ve always been curious about – where the little books came from. It’s wonderful that you sold those photos when you were a child.

      I live in the south west of England. My school was Church of England, and the headmaster was a C of E lay preacher – a good man. We had a Methodist Church in the village, and maybe someone brought the books from there.. It was a brilliant way to raise both money and awareness. The images, and the massages behind them, had a profound effect on me.

      It’s horrible that so much suffering still goes on – often exacerbated by harsh political regimes – but I try to always remember that foreign aid has changed millions of lives over the years. We have Oxfam (the cause I work for), Save the Children, Water Aid, Medecins Sans Frontieres, a host of church charities – the list goes on. People who might have died from cholera long ago now raise their families on fresh food and clean water Children forced into begging and prostitution by heartless gangs are living decent lives. The refugee camps that we provide are not much, but they give victims of war and misfortune a chance for a future.

      This is not enough, but it’s something…

      Liked by 1 person

          1. As far as I know, we only saw the photos of overseas children. It was only later that I became aware of child poverty and abuse in this country. I lived in a rural area where nobody had much, but nobody went hungry, and abuse was hidden behind front doors.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. The article brought tears to my eyes. Bravo to those who, like Nancy, work quietly and with dedication, to make positive changes in the world. She has made an overwhelming difference to the lives of people she has never met.

          Thank you, Peter, for taking the trouble to send me this link.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. too broken

    Oh! e still my soul… This is so beautiful, Jane. You know it was those commercials by Christian Children’s Fund that used to break my heard. I wanted to much to help. Funny how the guilt went away when we started sponsoring kids through Compassion International which led to our adopting Stef from India.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Calen. I doubt we saw those commercials over here, back then. I think it was the Save the Children ones that broke my heart. It’s great to think that an act of charity led you to your daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

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