Ode to the Indifferent

February 6, 2014

I still spend a lot of time in schools, and over the years I have worked with children of all kinds, from those with severe disabilities, to the super-smart, to the emotionally disturbed, to juvenile delinquents. But recently I have observed children who are incomprehensible to me, so disconnected, so estranged from meaning, that I feel alien in their presence. There seems to be emerging a generation of children who simply don’t care about anything. We should all be very concerned that youngsters are closing themselves off to life and learning, and we should all be afraid.

Ode to the Indifferent

I know the child whose eyes dart away, who turns from touch, whose words are not words, but a gallery, a looping tape, a sea of images, and an ocean of perceptions, confined between his ears

I know the child who likes dark, quiet, suffocating places where the sounds, the lights, the clouds that drop down or move too fast across the sky or hover like soft monsters in the white noise of the air, are banished by a scepter

I know the child whose world is locked, whose routines are locked, whose expressions are locked behind the bars of a cage of too, too much, too fast, too confusing

I know the child with Autism,  and I love him

I understand the child in pain, who walks with hurt, who bears rejection, whose mind is a storm , whose heart is a stone

I understand the one who has no home, but walks into an arena where blows are dealt, and words are spears, and dread is the only companion who clings through the dark hours

I understand the child who cuts, burns, scrapes, abrades her own flesh to open the well of pain to the air, to ease the pressure, the volcanic anger, to insult the object of insult, and bleed her blood for another’s contempt

I understand the child in pain, and I hurt with her

I help the child whose brain is slow, whose muscles pause when they should move, whose innocence is a shield from comprehending the struggle

I help the child whose hero parents rejoice in a step, and hope against hope that another step will come, whose gaze is an essay of the imperceptible world, and pure, effulgent love is magnified in value by the absence of common dreams

I help the child whose body falters, whose hands sculpt only the air, whose voice utters a wordless soliloquy, cryptic and unpublished, of the gentlest thoughts

I help the child profoundly disabled, and I wish I could help more

I see the bright one, the one with a hungry mind and restless hands, the wiry one who thinks on his feet, who wiggles and squirms, ever seeking to fill the maw of his curiosity

I see the loud one who wonders at the world, and wants to know, why this? why that? how does it work? will I be punished if I ask too many questions?  will anyone understand that questions are a fountain in my head, and they won’t stop flowing?

I see the child who surges with electricity, makes contact with everyone and everything, imparting and sucking energy depending on the polarity of what he touches

I see the distractable, super-active child, and I am amazed by him

I am perplexed by the child whose wonder is gone, whose curiosity stops at his next meal, who lolls indifferently, contemptuously, dangerously through the day

I don’t understand the child whose bristles at creation and yawns at possibility and closes his mind to the honey of a clue

I cannot help the child to whom moments are a hurdle, where nothing is done so more of nothing can be accomplished at the next juncture, where appetite rules, and like an animal, conniving is disconnected from the heart

This child, the indifferent one, is a new creature to me, intellect pallid, inquisitiveness flaccid, compassion a ghost, uninterested, questioning only the authority urging him to question, fear registers, but does little to effect change

I am perplexed by the indifferent child

He seems dangerous to me


by Marjorie Haun  2/6/14

  1. Richard Amerling

    Moving poem. Sounds like the children of the orphanage or other institutions (like day care) who grow up with a deficiency of human contact and warmth.

    • Could be…another theory is that these are often kids who live in generational (self-induced) government dependence and poverty. They do nothing because the less they achieve, the more inept, helpless, and pathetic they are, the more they can count on those government benefits from cradle to grave. Rule of thumb: Why do people do bad things? Because they can.

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