Little God of Aleppo

by Paul Hooker

Omran Daqneesh sits in an ambulance
on an orange seat, between supply drawers
and first-aid kits. His short legs stick out straight.
Concrete dust, the remnant of his bedroom,
sifts from bare toes to the floor. Unmoving,
he does not try to catch or treasure it,
cherishing a childhood none care to keep.
His empty stare sees nothing, everything,
or merely the Aleppo of the dead,
before the rain of bombs began to fall.
He is five years old. Blood dries on his cheek.
His hair is stiff and gray and caked with dust,
last trace of what was once and might-have-been.
What’s a little dust in an ambulance?

Dust are we all and to the dust return.
But this child, formed from the dust of nations,
must live his life, for he is the first fruit,
the apple of this brave new creation.

In the dark, extracted from the rubble,
a child is born from dust of bombed-out dreams,
is gently laid in an orange manger
while shepherds attend to him in rescue,
and generators fill the air with drone.
He is the new Immanuel; he sits
like Buddha beneath the orange Bodhi,
waiting for truth. His is the gaze of truth.
He sees what we do not: that God is here,
granting vacant grace from an orange cross.
He knows what we do not: no other god
can die beneath the dust and rise again.
London, Dresden, or in Sarajevo—
he rises powerless and can but die.

The preacher has no answer; faith still dies.
Knowledge is silly prattle; hopes depress.
We who remain speak for God’s hollow eyes:
We are here. We have seen. We are witness.