When the children return from the dead

When the children return from the dead
Still wrapped in their ragged, bloody shrouds
Still gaunt from starvation
Still filled with shrapnel
Still armless and legless
Still perforated with bullet holes . . .
When the children return from the dead
Still carrying the ragged stuffed animals
And the tattered blankets
That comforted them during the bombings
During the days trapped under rubble
During the artillery shelling
During the sniping
During the drone attacks
And the missiles fired by jet fighters
And the helicopters strafing . . .
When the children return from the dead
To look for their parents
Their siblings
Their grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins
To learn what has become of them
To learn if they are still alive
To learn if their house is still standing
If their bicycles and soccer balls and games and toys
Are still where they left them . . .
When the children return from the dead
They will be as innocent as they always were
But now more wise than the greatest philosophers
More compassionate than the holiest saints
More generous in spirit than the most righteous among us
And in their innocence and wisdom
Their compassion and generosity
The children will ask us why they were murdered
Why we allowed the killing to take place
But the children will not wait for our answer
They will leave the question
To remain lodged inside us
Like a ball of rusted barbed wire
Or shards of broken glass
And then the children will return
To be forever among the dead

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s newest book is And What Will We Sing? a collection of protest and social justice poems spanning the last 25 years. He podcasts at thirdactpoems.podbean.com and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.