This is the poem used in the The Big Sing for Peace service at King’s Lynn Minster.
He was only a boy
eight to nine years –or thereabouts.
He was lying in a pool
of tan and ruby fluid.
I came closer.
He made as if to talk…
only a painful hiss –
they’d severed the conduit.
Air could not be sound –
only shallow breath.
So I held his hand
and looked into his pure eyes:
I held his gaze.
Hurt, accusation and confusion
met mine. Still I held on.
Desperation drove away guilt –
why should a child’s last sight
be one of bearded barbarity,
greying savagery, wrinkled madness?
I tried to look human,
a kind adult face,
but what can a guilty gaze do
against a hundred murderous eyes,
a gentle squeeze against scarlet blades?
Still I held onto his eyes – fast.
He said “Why?”
I said “Please don’t!”
“How could you?” those eyes asked.
“Have mercy!” I pleaded.
The day turned into dusk:
our silent communion ceased.
He stopped looking,
tired of this land where souls turn to dust.
I closed his eyes.
I prayed for happier crossing
and hoped the rites were sufficient,
the sacrament right.
I made a vow – to live and remember!
Later I heard the man from Osijek
speak of memories, shields and swords,
of ending remembrance in embrace.
With all the weary combatants, I sighed
La lutta continua!
® Richard M. Benda, April 2015.