The Lost Child



By Warwick McFadyen

Let us take one child, a boy or girl, it doesn’t matter, perhaps under the age of 12 and let us abandon him or her with the insouciance of a king who sees life only as a realm. One who sees lives only as the material for his defence.

One child is enough. Though we could take 100, for effect, to amplify the conditions and the consequences of those conditions. But let us go the other way and take merely one and drive those conditions into the one, as a screw into a piece of wood. Even if by a miracle the screw is removed from the wood, the hole filled with putty or words, the rending of the wood, the splintering will remain. The wood will never be the same.

The child will not die. And yet, he or she will not live as you and I know life. Years will pass, birthdays will come and go. There is no executioner, and yet the child knows the sight of guards and wire, sees them every day. He or she lives with this unknowingness: the face of the man or woman who put her or him there.

Where is the hand that signed the paper? Where is the voice condemning him or her to limbo, on an island, far out to sea, away away away from hope. The ocean does not speak; the sky does not answer.

The child may have begun asking, Am I a monster? Am I evil? In a child’s mind such thoughts can blot out the sun, and in the fear of such darkness, he or she might harm themselves to harm their shadows. Still, it will not be enough to return light to the child’s world.

The child does not know that he or she really is an unseen crime, and such a thing to a king is a prize worth preserving and fighting for. The child does not know he or she is a threat to national security. The child does not know the border’s protection quails at his or hers existence. How could he or she? After all, a child is just a child.

Far away from this abandonment, on the main land, the fading mythical land, life goes on. The king is not really a king, but a machine. This machine is called government. People come and go within it, steering it this way and that, going forward, reversing, speeding up and slowing down, stalling and restarting. It likes to think itself a civilising influence. It is, after all, shaped and remodelled every few years by the people of the land.

And the abandonment of a child is part of the machine. Beyond the horizon, this inhumanity is shaping our soul, the way a hammer shapes the hand, to quote Jackson Browne.

The abandoned child only wanted asylum. A new life. He or she is not the monster. When a crime becomes seen as the norm then the monster resides not there but here. Let Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert have the last words. Let us take one child.

Mr Cogito’s Monster


The lucky Saint George

could judge the dragon’s

strength and movements

from his knightly saddle


strategy’s first principle

size up the enemy well


Mr Cogito’s position

is less advantageous

he’s seated in the low

saddle of the valley

wrapped in thick fog

in the fog you can’t make out

the burning eyes

the greedy claws

the maw


in the fog

you see only

the flickering of nothingness


Mr Cogito’s monster

lacks all dimensions


it’s hard to describe

it eludes definitions


it’s like a vast depression

hanging over the country


it can’t be pierced

by a pen

an argument

a spear


if not for its stifling weight

and the death it sends

you might conclude

that it was a phantom

a disease of the imagination


but it’s there

it’s there all right


it fills crannies of houses

temples bazaars like gas


it poisons the wells

destroys a mind’s constructs

covers the bread with mould


proof the monster exists

is offered by its victims


indirect proof

but sufficient




the sensible say

you can coexist

with the monster


just try to avoid

violent gestures

violent speech

when threatened

take on the form

of a stone or leaf


obey wise Nature

who urges mimicry


breathe shallowly

play we’re not here


Mr Cogito however

dislikes living as-if


he’d like to fight

the monster

on solid ground


so he goes out at dawn

to the sleeping suburbs

intrepidly fitted out

with a long sharp object


he calls to the monster

through empty streets


he insults the monster

provokes the monster


like the daredevil scout

of a non-existent army


he calls – 
come out you dirty coward

through the fog

you see only

the huge mug of nothingness


Mr Cogito wants to

join the unequal fray


this should happen

as soon as possible


before he is felled

by powerlessness

common death without glory

suffocation by shapelessness.

Warwick McFadyen is a freelance writer and editor



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s