The eyes always get you, those faces staring
from supermarket posters, the missing children
plucked off streets, vanished into forced labor,
begging gangs, prostitution; some maimed,
some recovered, some gone forever.  Once,

on a train to Shenzhen, a teen boy, dressed in rags,
one eye, half his chin missing, entered our carriage,
hushing the chatter, singing like an angel for coins,
and I mean like Bocelli, or Pavarotti, our car filled
with ear-melting Italian opera, rocking and swaying

through the Chinese countryside, the closest we,
in our economy class hard seats, would ever get
to La Scala, or the Bolshoi, if we even knew what
those were, and the boy finished to utter silence,
our open jaws and wet cheeks, his good eye

scanning the crowd,  and for one second it rested
on me, this otherworldly eye, this eye of the stricken
universe, and I am ashamed, but I looked away, as
did the others, ruffling their newspapers, pretending
it never happened, in that uneasy air, before the boy

moved on to the next car and beyond, to be lost
among the billions. No one spoke, all of us
aware of the sticky business of childhood in Asia,
knowing that the eye had seared itself into us;
an open wound that would fester within for years.

© Lauren Tivey, 2016.

*This poem originally appeared in the debut issue of The Verse (August, 2013), which is now defunct. Editor Dan Navarrete wrote of the poem, “A call to take action, excellent depiction of the reality surrounding impoverished youth in China. Truly a piece that sinks into our hearts and refuses to let go, just like the imagery”. Sorry to say The Verse didn’t last, and the website’s now gone.

Image Source: Wang Fuchun


2 thoughts on “Neverland

  1. It is a genuine privilege to read such well-crafted poetry. Those final two lines had much the same effect on me as they did upon the speaker of the poem, making me think of the times in my life I have witnessed tragedy and suffering and turned my eyes away.
    As strong as the imagery is, the depiction of silence in the carriage speaks with equal volume.

    Liked by 1 person

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