Prince Of Serendip

after a photograph by Don McCullin

His face in shadow, his back to a pillar, the child sits cross-legged
on the tiled floor, a sheet of plastic between his body
and the cold.  Around him, there’s debris, less than you’d expect
in a building, in this case a mental hospital, that’s been shelled
for five days, but enough.  There seems to be nobody else around,
no staff, no patients, but absorbed in what he’s doing,
the puzzle he’s trying to resolve, that sense of stricken abandonment
observers like us might be sure he’s feeling doesn’t show itself.
If anything, he seems lost to whatever else may be going on,
as perhaps only children are wise enough to be.  Laid out neatly
in front of him, as precisely as they might be in a museum display
or a forensic laboratory, are ten jagged-edged fragments,
ancient pottery shards, or splinters from the casing of an exploded
artillery round, in the gloom what we’re looking at isn’t easy
to fathom, so to be certain, we have to do the impossible,
sit down on the floor beside him and wait for it all to make sense.

Ken Head

If you have any comments on this poem, Ken Head  would be pleased to hear them.