Her name is Meera and she must be eight or nine months old. She has beautiful green eyes, but one of them is in the flesh, just like part of her face. With the one that is still healthy, she nervously glances back and forth. Meera is a Palestinian girl who was hit by missile shrapnel after an Israeli airstrike. I saw her on Eye On Palestine, a social media account that shares information about the massacre Israel is carrying out in Gaza. And it took me back to this poem by Santiago Alba Rico.
“Come forward one by one, dead children / that we’re going to feel sorry for you / that we’re going to feel sorry for you / dead children / kidney beans of red air / giant shadows / in the grassless earth / Come forward, come forward, listen to your names / Oh James, prince’s name, murdered at age seven / on January 13, 2012 in Sacramento, California / by a crackpot who wanted to be on TV / blessed be, James, your roller skates / in the locked closet / and your baseball glove / in the garage drawer / cursed be the ropes and the daggers / and the men who slash the vines of light / your parents, James, can’t tell water from fire / the world, James, has lost a color.” So begins the poem, and it tells the stories of a few tragically slain children, Argentine and Italian children who should never have died. Until Mohamed Oraif, a 10-year-old dead boy, arrives. Then the verse says: “Oh, child, who are you, you are not on the list / you have no name, no relatives, no toys / the wounds you carry are not yours / you are not on the list, who are you / where did you get all those wounds from? Mohamed Oraif is Palestinian.
The poem is called Los dueños de todas las listas (The Owners of All the Lists). It is shocking because Alba Rico’s homage to those children, apart from telling their drama, does so with beauty. But, above all, it is shocking because it contains a truth: that there are dead children who got to be someone in life and others who never were.
You can prove it by turning on the TV. They will tell you the story of Shani Louk, who was young, beautiful and had dreadlocks. She liked to visit her grandparents in Germany until she was captured as a hostage at a festival. Weeks later, her family was informed that she had been killed. Or that of Itay and Hadar, a 30-year-old couple who died to save their 10-month-old babies: they hid them in the shelter of their home while they stayed outside. They were gunned down by Hamas. Or that of little Omer, a four-year-old boy who loved to play with his two sisters until the terrorists took his life. Whoever does not feel for their deaths, whoever does not shudder when looking at their pictures, is not human.
Yet even if you see her pictures on TV, you will rarely be told Meera’s story, whether she had a doll or a sister, whether her mother wanted to take her to visit her cousins in the West Bank, or whether she liked to play with her neighbor’s cat. Perhaps she is still alive, albeit with her little green eye still in the flesh, or perhaps she has already joined the ranks of the nearly 4,000 children killed in Gaza in three weeks, more than were killed in all the world’s wars over the previous year. But none are on the list. They had no biography to fill newscasts and newspapers. Because, who is going to care about a dead person who had no life, even if that dead person is a child? Even if those dead are almost 4,000 children.
The translation of Santiago Alba Rico’s verses are an unofficial translation done by this newspaper.
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