How to Watch a Child Die

by Amanda Chong

Avert your gaze from his eyes,
even if they plead for you to be drawn to its depths.
Instead focus on his sallow complexion
the sun crawling on his aged skin,
the colour of the well-trodden carpet
in your living room;
the spot where your son once threw his football boots
and you missed bleaching
for the past few years.

Do not try to guess his age
or say, he is older than he looks
as you study his brittle bones, too-large head
and the empty basket of his ribcage.
Think instead of the sound they may make
when his body is thrown into a ditch;
the sound of rain whipping through branches,
the crackling of a creek before thaw
or your antique vase
crashing into smithereens
from its place on the mantelpiece.

Turn away from the blank faces of your own children
and make no associations.
Pretend you do not notice
how your teenager leaves her food
uneaten on her plate.
(Convince yourself you are not an escapist)
After all,
this skeletal child is merely
a marionette in a macabre fairytale.

Now, ignore the queasy feeling in your stomach
as you get up to dish out dessert.
Resolve to write to the authorities
to complain for showing such
disturbing footage during dinner.

Be blind to the broken birds of the child’s
hands as they reach out pleading to be held,
the rolling whites of his eyes, the bruised animals
of his lips, parting, as he takes his last..

Turn off the television set.

Children should not know that
(in some very remote parts of the world)
they may die before their mothers.