Aircraft circled in the sky, then turned.
The cylinders beneath their wings detached
And with the grace imparted by geometry
They traced their arc into the town.
What was the sound as they erupted?
Did explosions echo from the walls
Already fractured, crazed with crevices
From bombs and bullets previously struck?
Or was it silent, as the creeping poison
Exited the canisters and, carried on the very breath
Of air, passed softly through the lips
Of people, passed into their blood.
And then, and then, and then the cries
Of anguish, and of agony,
Of pain that wracks the body and
Of pain that wracks the soul.
And the world paused,
Afraid, perhaps, to breathe.
Unguided aircraft in the sky made descent
And in a mad cacophony of death
Erupted on the runways, in the hangars,
Tearing concrete, metal, wood, and flesh.
For the children of Khan Sheikhoun,
For the parents who will share their graves,
For the well-loved and the disregarded
Whose days ended in the poisoned air:
So says the superpower.
Tell me, children (and adults) of Khan Sheikhoun,
Has your life (too brief) been honored
With the blood that stained the taxi-ways
Of this airfield of your killers? Has it?
Tell me, children, do you know
If these explosions, this destruction
Will prevent another scene of horror?
For we have supped full of horrors…
Tell me, children, as I strain to hear:
What is your wish, as you breathe free
The scented air of God’s new life,
What is your wish? Your longing prayer?
Weep, world, to know the will
Of these departed children:
“To live in peace and joy: No more.
To live in peace and joy: No less.”
Forgive us, children. We have failed.
We did not bring your long-for peace to you.
We have not brought your longed-for peace
To anyone. We have brought death and war.
Fear to breathe
Until the planet’s children
Live in peace and joy.
On Tuesday, April 4th, a chemical attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria killed over eighty people. Western leaders identified the Syrian government as responsible, and on Thursday, April 6th, United States forces attacked the Shayrat military airfield with cruise missiles, describing it as the source of the chemical bombing.
The very next day, Syrian warplanes took off from the same base and carried out conventional air strikes. The war continued.
2001 photo by Willy Verhulst, who asks, “What became of them?”