The Burnt Child

Accidents do happen.
The burning liquid spewing out of
the tipped coffee urn,
scorching the toddler’s body.

Days later,
his life a living hell,
he stands in his crib, rattles the bars,
and raises a scream to the world and to God.
Over and over again.
“Jesus Fucking Christ”
is his howled mantra.

His mom can tell where he is on the ward
thanks to the screaming.

Time heals some things and not others.
Skin grafts and scars
cover much of his upper torso and arms.
The pain and its urgency
keep resonating down time’s corridor.

The toddler is now a man.
A man urgently devoted to stopping pain
and pushing himself and others hard
in that cause.

So hard that more pain ensues for him.

The solution creating the problem.

One day a nurse tells him about
a toddler in the burn ward
where she sometimes works.

Hour after hour the boy stands,
rocking and screaming his pain.

She tells the man that one time
she picked up the boy,
and held him.
Being held must have hurt.
But he quietened,
took in her love,
and was relieved.

His pain was still there the next day,
but when she walked into the ward,
his eyes tracked her every step of her way.

I think of that nurse,
and I think of humanity burning.
Of people suffering, and those who tried to comfort them.
Gandhi, St. Francis, and Martin Luther King.
So much of humanity burns with pain.

Refugees by the millions are scattered by war and famine.
Everywhere people suffer in poverty,
While the rich often remain arrogant and unfeeling.

These great leaders have not ended our pain and suffering.
But they did dare to hold that burnt child,
to comfort it,
to bring it relief.

Can we do any more?
Can we do any less?