The Unknown Child

(first printed in Riding Home, Talon Books, 1995)

You have all heard praise of war –
for God and Country we send forth
killing men and killing machines
and afterwards build monuments
to battlefields, to generals,
to the unknown soldier.

Let us now build a monument
to the unknown child;
the one who died of hunger,
of war,
of epidemic disease,
of poverty,
of massacres,
died because it was born to parents
living in Tigre, Nicaragua, Haiti,
Chad, Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan
of some other obscure and war-torn,
poverty-stricken nation.
The wise child knows to be born
to rich white parents;
the unwise choose the Amazon regions,
choose to be Bushmen
or Aborigines.

Let us now praise children
and build for them monuments.
Perhaps while building monuments,
we will remember the natural order –
that the older die before the younger;
that the younger must be nurtured
so they can grow and strengthen
and maybe some of them will know
some day
a way to live
without war and famine.

October, 1988

Copyright 2009, Helen Potrebenko. For permissions please visit


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