A Song About a Boy

I look up from fluffy pillows

stuffed with feathers;

then lay my head down on stones,

with scorpions, in the fetid heat of twilight.

Sleep crawling over me,

whispered like a childhood song.

A jewelry box ballerina,

the cutting smack of an AK-47,

screams and cries in the night.

At dawn, we were fed breakfast.

Milk and honey while we were fussed over;

slept too long and now we’d miss the bus.

Some days, I woke in a different place than I fell asleep.

Our family moving through the night,

to avoid the militias.

In the camps we would stand in lines for rations

that would never appear,

or appease,

the hunger, that drove us when the fighting did not.

Our school mates met us with wild laughter.

Barely able to sit in our seats,

we drove the teachers mad with our giggling.

Who needs math anyway?

Who cares about some old battle a hundred years ago?

We just want to go and play outside.

That afternoon, the camp came under fire.

They burned the school and hospital tents.

My sister didn’t get away in time.

The soldiers made an example out of her.

Now my mother won’t stop crying.

The UN soldiers arrived with bright blue helmets,

but the militia had already taken the food…

and the girls…

and the boys.

I watched as a fly walked across my eye,

too tired to shoo it away.

We burst from the confines of the school like a swarm of bees.

Summer vacation, and baseball, and freedom, and hotdogs!

Mom promised us we would spend the day at the waterpark,

then we’d go home for dinner.

I’d play Pokémon and stay up late.

We walked for two days to another camp on the border;

this one overflowing with thousands of people.

Sewage soaked the ground where sweat and blood did not,

and there was nowhere to hide from the sun.

Who puts a camp in the middle of the desert?

We mill about, vacant and despondent.

Anxious for word of food, or loved ones, or asylum;

none of which come by nightfall.

My mother still cries for my sister,

I am glad she has not forgotten me.

Dad tucks me into bed.

It’s late and I am barely able to keep my eyes open.

He says “I love you, buddy.”

Turns on my night light,

and closes the door.

In my soft cocoon of feather pillows,

I slip off in to dreams that become nightmares.

The darkness brings an almost indescribable cold.

It pierces through the thin fabrics that shade us from the sun.

There is no wood for a fire.

We huddle together on the stony ground.

Shivering, until our bodies betray us as well,

and we fall asleep.

My mother begins to sing quietly.

It is a song I know well.

It is a song about a boy

in a bed

far away.

And I dream I look up from fluffy pillows.

HG – 2015

One thought on “A Song About a Boy

  1. This piece was written for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s annual “Canada Reads” Poetry Prize for 2015. My first entry into a competition in many years. It was not selected. I can see many “errors” in the piece, but it is published here, unaltered, as it was submitted.

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