Sabra and Shatila

By Francis Oeser

Ruinous walls define a simple street –

a place for donkeys, the calls of walkers selling wares,

a place banded by bars of sunshine and shadow.

But all is changed.

See a huddle of boys

in short sleeved shirts and jeans

(as if going to a picnic)*,

one holding a blinding white handkerchief

to his nose, gripping another’s arm

who shields his unbelieving eyes

from pools of blood as extensive as

the dead crumpled across the heedless way!

Nothing but bullet-pocked rubble beyond.

Nothing in the sky.

Nothing said.

Children are angels, poets.

These have no words for horror making crime tangible.

The children have only themselves

in a world as derelict, as demented, as overpowering

as their huddled warmth, the hand-held arms, the tears.

The scornful sun doesn’t raze the bloodied dead

or wash the street.

The childrens’ sobs in Sabra and Shatila

condemn a heedless world

and proclaim their ravaged futures.

Will they ever remember humane kindness, love and laughter?

We strip our lives by feigning careless silence.

* A photograph heading Robert Fisk’s account in The Independent 15th September 2012.

– Francis Oeser is a novelist and a poet. He contributed this poem to

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