I just finished reading A long way gone by Ishmael Beah. It’s the true memoir of a boy from Sierra Leone, who witnessed a war in West Africa when he was only twelve, and was forced to become a child soldier. It’s sad, touching and disturbing, and so honestly written that I could picture every scene in my head. It’s a reminder of the insanity of war and the innocence of those involved, both simultaneously. It makes me wonder how somebody could go through such tragedy and have the courage to relive it to tell the world about it. Maybe that’s how bravery is defined.
It reminds me, on some very superficial level, of a trip our creative writing class made to the Kranji War Memorial in Singapore. For most of us, who haven’t ever been touched by war, it is so easy to feel detached from the suffering that comes with it. Hearing of people fight and die has become so common place, that we have all been desensitized. And yet, people are indeed fighting and dying.
Here’s a poem I wrote post our war memorial trip.
“Night night, sonny Jim”,
She whispered in his ears.
As they lowered him into the earth,
She tasted salt from her tears.
He had been terrified of the dark,
For all his three and a half years.
Now he was going to lie there,
Lie alone and fight his fears.
The year was 1954,
Each man took to a fancy whim.
He decided to tear out the hearts
Of his own kith and kin.
He did not even have mercy
On tiny hands or young skin,
And in a night of darkness,
He put to sleep little Jim.
And she whispered in his ears,
“Night night, sonny Jim”
Little Jim was buried at the Kranji War Memorial after he died in the Singapore riots of 1954, at the age of three and a half years.
His epitaph reads “Night night, sonny Jim.”
This poem tries to feel the pain of the mother who buried her little baby in the dark of the earth.