that reeked of crayon and ink,
riffled the fat book whose images depicted
thin children with unfamiliar skin-tones
from different races.
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
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
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
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.
after all that we have done and seen,
millions of children
suffer and die,
Thanks go to Ivor, who inspired this poem with his recent rash of compassionate posts about the suffering of children.
©Jane Paterson Basil