This is the fourth in a series of poems and song parodies that I wrote for a contest that centered around male infant circumcision. The contest encouraged original songs and poems, as well as parodies of other works. For my last Poetry Corner entry, I posted a song parody based on a song called "Greenfields" by an older American folk-singing group called "The Brothers Four;" and an explanation as to why I chose this song.
This time around I'm posting an original poem I wrote, called "Lullaby for the Damned."
When I wrote this poem, I wrote it from a feeling of helplessness, powerlessness; first, for the child, who is in an unescapable predicament, and second from me as an onlooker unable to do anything about it.
This is how I felt the first time I ever saw a video of an infant circumcision, with a poor child strapped down to a cutting-board, unable to move, unable to escape, and this is how I continue to feel today.
Short of getting on my knees and begging parents not to put their child through this, short of beseeching doctors to adhere to that dictum of medicine, "First do no harm," what else can I do?
And what else can a child do?
They say that victims of abuse, whether it be sexual, emotional or physical, have a coping mechanism to deal with the pain. As a way to escape what's going on, the victim will imagine him or herself outside of his or her body, in order to detach themselves from what's going on; they imagine their souls escaping their bodies and that they are floating above the room as they look down and watch what's going on. This coping mechanism is known as "dissociation."
Witnesses of male infant circumcision report that as the child's penis is being filleted, the child lets out shrieks and screams unlike any other cries they've heard. The child often blows his lungs out, unable to scream any more, and eventually passes out. He goes into a state of "shock," often called "sleeping" by unsympathetic doctors. What is happening is that, this is how the child is coping with what is going on; this is their escape.
What are doctors thinking as they do this?
Are they actually there, in the moment?
Or have the souls of the doctors too left the very room?
In order to escape the shrieks and screams?
Or in the case of male doctors, away coping with that same familiar pain they experienced decades ago?
As they crush and dice, are they reliving the whole thing?
Trying to get away still?
Is cutting other children a continued attempt to escape that which, for the rest of their lives, will haunt them whenever they urinate, masturbate, take a shower or have sex?
As I stand there, helpless, powerless, all I can do is say this prayer in my head...
Lullaby for the Damned
By Joseph Lewis
Sleep on, oh little one,
And pray that you don't wake.
Escape the tethered body
That a knife will soon come rake.
Drift away to slumberland,
Your struggle is in vain.
Only there can you be safe,
and never know the pain.