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Everybody Knows Why The Children Are Hungry - Poem by Patrick White

Everybody knows why the children are hungry.
Everybody knows why the poor give up dreaming
and the rich can't sleep without surveillance.
Everybody knows why this young girl can't read
and the Taliban throw acid in her face.
Everybody knows why this young boy
at twelve years old
feels about as heroic as a statistic
and looks at the future as if
he were already a has-been.
Everybody knows why there's a rifle in his hand.
Everybody knows why
there are people washed up
on the streets of our cities
as if a great ship of state had gone down
like a garbage barge off the coast of New Jersey.
Everybody knows why
women are being sexually colonized
in the Democratic Republic of the mineral-rich Congo.
Everybody knows their atrocities
like serial killers and baseball cards.
You read a lot of existentialism
that prefers existence to essence
but you still find it hard to picture the abyss
that defines being as a special case of nothingness:
look into a dead child's eyes
look into a dead child's mind
look at what she cherished about life
like a cosmology all of her own
a myth of origin
a reason for stars
rejected by the metaphysics of the flies
that gather like punctuation marks all over her eyes.
Everybody knows
why the truth is veiled in spider-webs
that are maintained like political systems
who let the few who know how to spin silk out of their ass
eat everyone.
New eyes for old lamps
here comes this year's candidates
like autumn to the ballot-box
like worms to a windfall of apples
to improve the lives of illegal immigrants
by privatizing concentration camps.
Everybody wants to stick their thumb in plum pudding
and say what a good boy am I
and everybody forgets who they stole it from
and everybody regrets that they didn't get caught
in time to do it all over again
as they address themselves like greed
to a nation of gluttons
about what to do about the hungry
at the back door of the world
living on the leftovers
of liposuction clinics for the rich.
Three quarters of the world's resources on your plate
taken out of other people's mouths
and their children washing your table-cloth
to get the worst of the blood stains out
and you wonder why
you're threatened by the fact
that people are hungry
and all they can see in your indifference
is their destiny.
Hate manipulates
the economics of fate
and the harvest moon is eclipsed
by the shadow of your dinner plate
all over the world tonight
as you go to bed full and happy
you're rich enough to have values
that can be bought and sold
in a free market.
Hell's reserved a table
in the dark corner
of an exotic place for you
that serves just those
who were exalted
by great all-consuming souls
that knew how to keep faith with a menu
that had children with cannibal soup on it.
And if hell doesn't exist anymore
because so many atrocities have put it to shame
and peace is just another black hole
in the eye of an approaching hurricane
then may your soul be subjected
to the same vicious clarity
that cooked the books
like bestsellers in heaven
that always had a happy ending
like a tax return on charity.
The Holy Ghost was first
a Greek lawyer
a paraclete
an advocatus
someone who would speak up for you
who would intercede on your behalf
after you died
and went before
Rhadamanthus Anubis God or provincial court
to see if there was a feather's-weight of good in you.
Now the Holy Ghost is a campaign manager
for a Christo-Fascist rightwing conservative think tank
with the i.q. of a snakepit
running for the office of God
by denoucing charity
as a socio-economic liberal fraud
and a green policy in Eden
as the beginnings of a police state
that will take away your right
to be psychopathically delusional about clarity.
Granny Smith Macintosh or Golden Delicious
Satan invited Eve
to take a big bite out of the apple
just for a little variety
but the neocon Nazis have taken it
a step further than that
and stuffed themselves
like maggots
into the vicious crabapples
they've stewed under the crust
of their North American piety
like a taste of downhome cooking you can trust.
But trust me
they're lick-spittle ass vacuums
that will be spit out
like something nature abhors.
Everybody knows why the children are hungry.
There are people in the world
whose values are the apple cores
of a trickle-down economy
that begrudges the poor even that.
Everybody knows that the game is fixed
and elections are Mexican pinatas
beaten to a pulp at the ballot box
to keep foreigners out of our customs
like the roots of strange lands out of our food.
Everybody knows
why the world is a dangerous place
and the only thing our children can do
is stick needles in their arms
to stay out of harm's way.
Everybody knows why the old
are left to die alone without dignity
in a world where experience
is a kind of psychological abuse
and wisdom the chronic ambiguity of a victim.
I see a war.
Between those
who have nothing to lose
and the darlings of superfluity
who live off the rest of everything
that belongs to everyone else.
Nasty guerrilla gunboat wars
like blood clots in the collective unconscious
ignited by true believers
on both sides of the fence
with the spontaneity
of improvised explosive devices
and the apocalyptic insights of fanatical drones.
More bang for the buck.
More corporate spin
for those who don't give a damn.
Everybody knows why the planet feels
like a sexually assaulted woman
with no shelters or restraining orders
to hear her appeals for help.
We shut our mouths like doors.
We close our eyes like windows.
We stuff our ears with loud music
to keep from hearing
how she screams our names out loud
as if there were still some heroes left
among all her shameless children
that weren't legendary
for their sins of omission.
The planet is one body.
The planet is one mind.
If your little toe gets gangrene like Somalia
and you do nothing about it
given time for the disease to progress
California will go blind
and Tokyo go into cardiac arrest.
If a child loses an eye
that's one less star in the sky
for the lost to find their way back by.
If a student is killed for an idea
by the Neanderthals of creationism
standing up for a time-honoured ice-age
against the proponents of global warming
that's proof that humans
were created in the image of God
like a missing link in the brain drain of evolution
that never flushes the think-tank
after it's done its business
like other species that have gone extinct
abusing their own awareness.
But I've got a way out of the argument.
It isn't evolution or creationism
that governs the direction of events
among all living things on the planet.
It's eliminationism.
Murder in the name of self-defense.
Genocide in the name of purifying the race.
Theft in the name of giving back.
Lying as a way of upholding the truth.
Rape as a way of making love.
Iron pyrite as the standard of the Golden Rule.
Do unto others before they do unto you.
Jesus overthrew the benches
of the money-lenders in the temple.
The Vatican's got a bank.
Wisdom as the think-tank of the fool.
When the meaning of life is insignificant
so is its lack of meaning too.
Compassion as heartfelt as a foreign policy.
Desecration as the true aesthetic of celebrity.
Horror takes a short-cut to fame
and leaves the long way home to the hero.
War as a way of imposing peace.
Starvation poverty disease clean water air and arable land
beaten like old ploughs
into the new weapons
of a corporate arsenal.
Nike owns the rain in Bolivia
and Coca Cola's
the corporate Magna Carta of Belize.
You're the nobody everybody's watching
like the someone they should be afraid of
who's watching you.
Profligate variety the vacillating substitute for choice.
The bride wore black at the wedding
to celebrate her marriage to an oilslick
like moonlight that landed a big eclipse
and the mutant sex life of a polluted fish.
There's honey in the orchards that broke their vows
and money in doing what you hate
for the best of reasons.
One half the world is grass.
The other half is grazers.
There are children who suckle
at their dead mothers' breasts
like Hathor the cosmic cash-cow
when she crashed on Wall Street
like a fall in the price of meat.
The promised land of milk and honey
is a profit margin on the edge of the sea
looking for big returns on its spiritual dividends.
The ends don't justify the means anymore.
The means are the ends.
Like the children
that are dynastically slaughtered
to keep Herod from having bad dreams
about the birth-rate of immaculate Palestinian virgins.
Lord won't you send me an M-16.
My friends all have Mausers
and AK-47s.
The conspiracy theorists
of the justifiably paranoid
look at a tree
and see an underground arboreal organization.
The crazy try to keep the mad from going insane.
Everyone's dining with Claudius on poison mushrooms.
Nero waits in the wings
like the Elvis Presley of emperors
and sings of all the things
he's going to do to the Christians
with a blast from the past
and a little number
he took from the beast
that rose to six six six on the charts
for drowning their children
and drinking the blood of a god
who rose from the dead on the third day
like Marianne Faithful making a comeback.
And everybody knows why the children are hungry.
Everybody knows the big bad wolves
caught up to their toes
and blew their house down
and ate them like little piggies.
Everybody knows where the cradle crashed
and how many millions of children there were on board
when the wind blew the treetops out like candles.
But everybody plays dumb and mute and stupid
and says they're still looking for the black box
to determine what caused the tragedy
and possibly in the future
make sure that it won't probably happen again.
Everybody knows there are maggots in Armani suits
pimped out like butterflies
to misrepresent themselves to the people
in the voice of an experienced apple
who knows how to make the hard choices
when it gets down to taking a bite out of the budget.
Corruption always persecutes virtue
for falling into fiscal arrears
when it should have known
like any good snakeoil salesman
it just couldn't keep up
with the luxurious lifestyle of its tears.
Mirrors within mirrors within mirrors
and not one them bright enough
to reflect the dark truth
of why children just hundreds of miles away
from a supermarket and a health plan
look like the fossils of pterodactyls
in the last stages of late Triassic starvation.
All skin and bones
with big eyes like bat kites
tangled in the powerlines
of the economic spider grid of a world
that separates the flies
the gods kill for sport
from the bureaucrats and politicians
that deny any knowledge of their crimes
in a marsupial court
where everyone else
is in everyone else's pocket.
Wanton boys pull the wings off the fly.
The fly kills them with germs.
Everybody knows why their heart squirms
when they shake out the garbage can
like a cornucopia full of worms
that have grown fat and chubby as commas
on the flesh of illiterate children
that didn't live long enough
to learn to count the dead
without using their fingers and toes.
The tooth fairy's turned into a terrorist
that puts homemade explosives
under the pillows of stone
the children lay their heads down on
shaking in their deathbeds
to scream in their dreams about things
that were better left unsaid.
Everybody knows why the damage to our children
is always a collateral
and never a capital offense.
A prosthetic footnote to a roadside bomb.
A small pale blossom of a face
in the cosmic expanse
of an adult-sized tomb
that casts monstrous shadows
on the walls of the room
she sleeps alone in
without any sign from heaven
that anyone knows she's dead.
All her lucky stars
swept like tragic dust under the bed
where she's hiding
from everyone who knows why
and doesn't come looking.


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Poems About Children

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