Thirty-nine children destroyed.
Four of them, sisters.
Their blood a red atlas, spattered roses
on the bedroom walls they cringed behind,
their unfinished bodies and minds,
finished. Does anyone remember
what a child is
when it is not collaterally dismembered
into small feet and hands and faces
that had no choice but to trust the world
that savaged it like roses?
Five toes, an ankle and a heel
still occupy the floral running shoe
that never made it all the way to school.
Your bootprints on the throats of baby swans
like the bombpits of mass graves
where the hysterical mothers rave
in grief and rage
over what you have damaged
like ferocious boars who wear
the tusks of the moon like missiles
to gore children embedded like roots in the night
out of their sleep
like a plague of angels
sanitized by the height
you kill from.
You are not a man.
You are not human.
The lightning is more merciful than you.
Don’t let the medals
or the protocols of murder
you glory in
you’re a ghoul in a cockpit,
death’s eye in a drop of dew.
Nine civilians killed for every soldier,
the cowards are herded into the military
for their own safety
and for the civilians who take it by the millions
on the chin,
they don’t hand out medals,
there’s nothing to win or promote.
Do you know how much courage it takes
to die when you’re nine years old
to gratify a general’s heart,
to advance the campaigns of the politicians,
to appall the pundits into passionate opinions
that suckle the mob at the faucets of their fangs
with the milk and honey
of primetime bedside stories
to make hate and war
and the obscenties of human lovelessness,
rape, disease, indifference, and mutilation
seem the reasonable acts of old men
whose hearts clamour like swords and anvils
like hammers and gavils
to inspire others to kill children
in the arms of their mothers
so they can stand like a lighthouse of history
on the coast of an idea
lost in the smog of their ghosts?
Hideous, geriatric monkeys raging
against their own androphobic hallucinations,
fashioning nooses out of umbilical cords
and fuses out of the spine
to ambush a shopping mall,
a school, a hospital
to expedite the death of innocence
as the necessitious consequence
of their long, hard experience
as seasoned executioners
trying to get it up
like flags in the morning
to sway spring blood into dying for them
even before it’s fully unfolded
like the proxies of autumn
shedding their patchwork comforters
over the coffins of the dead
who are forsaken by the earth
like the windfall of a poisonous tree
rooted in their hearts like a foreign policy.
Thirty-nine children destroyed.
Thirty-nine candles of life
it took a universe to tallow and ignite
snuffed out like thirty-nine birthdays by cordite
dropping like serpents from a sky
through bomb-bay doors
that open like ovens of manna
to make bitter, black bread
out of the bodies of children
who thought of God as the pantry behind their prayers.
Is your god leavened by the dead?
Does your country own a concentration camp yet?
Does it sow and reap and thresh like a cannibal?
Does it eat its own and those of the others
who were born of the same mothers as you
until you unbound your thread of blood
from the strong rope of our common humanity
and singling yourself out for a manifest destiny
you expeditiously improvise out of your lies as you go along
threatened by Goliath in Gaza
throwing rocks at David in an F-l8,
you remember the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,
you remember how the Nazis fought
and obliterate the neighbourhood
as if the only thing you understood
of all that courage and suffering
were merely a change of jackboots
and the star-crossed symbols of blood
that drive the people out of their homes
like the innocent scapegoats of the tribes
that drove their sins out into the wilderness solitude
to turn into Azazel, Satan’s standard-bearer,
master of all evil, spawn of the void, returning.
Thirty-nine children destroyed
and the whole neighbourhood burning.
The new crematoria fall from the sky
and it’s ashes in the blink of an eye
for thirty-nine children in sneakers
who had the wrong ally,
who did their homework
and went to bed to bed early
to learn how to die.
I’m sick of your holy wars. Muhammad,
peace be upon him,
would cover himself up again
under his cloak,
this time like an eclipse of shame
when the angel came
to demand he recite light upon light,
nur wa nur,
were he asked about the blood
of the mothers and the children you killed
like hashashim in the shadows of noon,
to rewrite the book that makes things clear
like a blood smear
you can’t wash off the light.
And I’m sick of the supermen,
and the chosen people,
and all the righteous bells
that have been shoved down the throat
of the crooked church steeple
like a goose that’s been stuffed
for spiritual pate.
I’m sick of the indifference
of the glossy, intellectual versions
of the human perversions
they discuss with rubber gloves
fitted neatly like theories over their hearts.
What theory ever picked up
a child’s body parts?
See a naked man. See
a naked woman and a child.
No sound. But the man batters
the woman and child to death
whether with a bomb or a club, no matter,
until all that’s left is splintered bone, blood
and a pulpy mess.
Now ask yourself,
the sound back on,
what could the man say,
what could the man possibly say
that would make these exactions okay?
What reason, what ideology, government
faith, loyalty, career, political advantage,
what military passion, or zeal
for revengeful reform,
what lie to caress the mob,
or bobbing apple of truth
could be recited
even out of the mouth of an angel,
or the orifice of a demon, or worse,
both ends of a human
in front of a microphone
to justify what was expedited
to get the voters excited,
convinced of your will to kill?
To get the job done?
Thirty-nine children destroyed,
and their spirits stream through the void
like small thoughts that were easily forgotten,
their lives unravelled like stars
before they had a chance to shine,
and their hearts, crushed like young grapes
before they could taste their own wine,
and in the souls of the mothers,
thorns, and feral blossoms on the vine
that hold their wombs hostage with razor-wire
as the one-eyed liars,
their magnetic hair on fire,
take questions from the choir.
Thirty-nine children destroyed,
tiny hands like starfish and flowers
blooming through the rubble of cement
you broke like bread over them.
That is not what Jesus meant.
That is not what Moses meant.
That is not what Muhammad meant.
That is not what Buddha meant.
You burn butterflies with an airforce
you say was heaven-sent
as if they were children
to scourge the rockets in the snakepit
and embellish the odour of hatred.
But you don’t get it.
That isn’t what life means
when a child screams out in the night
at you in her dreams
descending from hell
like the mouth
of a terrible, blood-stained bell with teeth
that look like crescent moons
and the long, prophetic scars
of the black stars on your wings
to eat her.
And if I were to curse, and I won’t,
what could be worse
if you were to meet her,
after her death, after your death
after the fanatical insanity of the slaughter,
is the footnote of a slugline
that impaled the matter
on the stakes of axial cliches,
if you were to remember what a child is,
if you were to meet her
and know in the flash
of a bomb to the slaughter,
as she looks up at you like the sky,
like thirty-nine flowers in terror,
you fell upon your own daughter
like a perversion of rain
again and again and again?