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Sunday, August 28, 2016


by Martha Landman

Sir, please accept my apology
for taking up your time.
And the apology of all the others
giving you so much work.
We should have left you
to care for the badly injured.
I was supposed to play marbles
with my brothers in the sand,
but I hid with my family inside.
I was supposed to play with friends— 
enjoy the outdoors, run in the maze.
I would have loved to do it. I’m sorry.
But my parents kept me inside.
They said it was safer in there.
I was meant to tease the girls,
while they were skipping rope
or played with their dolls.
And now there is blood on my hands.
I’m not sure where it is from.
I haven’t done anything wrong, I promise.
And sorry for having made you cry, Sir.
I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.
If there’s any way I can help, let me know;
I do not want to waste your time.

Editor's Note: Efforts to identify the boy [in the photograph] were unsuccessful. He was treated on Tuesday night at the Omar Hospital [in Aleppo, Syria] and released, said Baraa al-Halabi, a citizen journalist who photographed him. None of the medical workers who could be reached remembered the boy, which is not unusual in the overwhelmed hospitals. —The New York Times, August 21, 2016

Martha Landman lives in Adelaide, Australia.  Her work has appeared in various online journals and other anthologies.