Humor is Lost upon the Dead

As I write there is a dirty sheet being placed over the body of a child.

She is no more.  What shall we do?

She was playing in the sand, even though her family had told her to stay inside.  A piece of shrapnel killed her.  It left only an inch gash in her chest, tore through her heart, and then ripped her shoulder blade and part of her spine away from her body.  Flesh and blood splattered a wall and spelled a word by the freak of nature: H and I.  She flopped around a bit before she died, alone there on the broken earth.  Only a few knew her and fewer still will remember the circles she drew in the dust.  HI she died.

Later they will bury the girl in a rocky field and the hands of a bare tree will sprinkle bark and brown straw upon her like snow in a drought. The numb will retire to eat from tin plates filled with empty sound.  They will wonder why god has forced them to live in a plastic house without rooms, without the pattern of normal life.

Can you hear the dead child whisper as you read my words?  I think you can.  She is singing a low song about cold water in a deep well.  She thinks there is something funny about that; something magical and she is smiling.

She is no more.  What shall we do?

There is a giant wall, rising through the clouds, trying to reach the sun.  It goes higher each day.  There are hundreds of millions of faces on the wall.  They are civilians killed in war. We do not call them heroes.  They are only victims of a lesser stripe.  If you want, you can see the wall.  You only need imagine and there it will be.  It is miles high and a thousand feet wide.  Planes have trouble going around it, but birds take shelter on the little ledges that hold the photos and paintings.  The girl with the shrapnel wound is being added to the top row as you read my words.  Her smile is gone.  She never knew she was to be photographed, but she doesn’t need to worry.  Every face is the same: the eyes are dull, glassy, the visage frozen, and the skin is pale, as if humans are really marble statues that move around in a nightmare until they are suddenly placed upon the wall and remember, they are not heroes.

Let me put names to the faces.  Do you have the time? No, perhaps we should only think about the little girl who is dead, the one with a jagged piece of metal for a beating heart; the one who whispers the low song and finds humor in distant, dark water. Maybe we should think of her as our own child and give her the eyes of our child so we can truly see her.  Would that make her real?

Yet the ships sail and the cities grow and all of us are comfortable in our homes, waiting for good news and familiar sounds. The schools ring with children, the furnace burns the steel, the man kisses the woman, and all of it is real.  We know that we are here, but the little girl is unsung. Maybe she is a crisis actor and we need not worry.

It is late now and we all need to sleep upon pillows made with hollow hope.  There is nothing more for us to do in our nights of omission; our days of butter, breath, and dream.

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