What the Children Here Know
by David Adès

The children here know too much:
they are silent, superstitious,
knowing better than to speak

of what they know.
They know they are
shadows of themselves

in a twilight world.
They know the grim reaper
stalking the shiny corridors —

his tall gauntness, his black
and tattered rags, the click of
his steps on the linoleum;

they know his severity,
the randomness of his justice,
his curved sickle, his impatience.

They have seen him
from the corner of their eyes:
he is a regular visitor here.

I know what the children know.
I see it in their listlessness,
the way they huddle into

their bodies, avert their gaze.
They want the blinds kept down,
the light kept out.

They want not to know
what they know, not to see
what they see.

When they lie still
I hear their silent thoughts,
their incantations:

don’t come for me,
don’t come for me,
don’t come for me.

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