dry eyes


innocence of snowdrops beneath rain damp trees
and gold glow summer misted hills,
the sound of laughter in the street outside,
ring hollow in those dry eyes

hands that fed turn magazines and open tins of soup,
feel velvet moss on autumn walks and gather empty milk bottles at night,
but still recall the paper touch and sickly drag of weightless flesh

the sound of jumbo jet or wagner at full volume cannot drown the silent stare,
accepting little when all is lost
and ears still hear the sound of those dry eyes

January 2004

Twenty years after the Ethiopian famine of 1984, the BBC filmed a documentary where Michael Buerk returned to Ethiopia. He revisited the same places where he had reported the famine in 1984 and met again some of the people he filmed and interviewed then. There was a girl full grown and dedicated to helping others who had been the large eyed icon of the dying child. She had survived.

But most touching was Claire Bertschinger, who had been in charge of a feeding station. Each day she had to walk down the lines of babies and children choosing who should come in and live and who stay outside and die. For twenty years the horror of this had stayed with her and she had always believed that those who knew her then would hate her as a dealer in death. The programme brought her back too and she met these people who of course remembered only that she was a bringer of life. It seemed so hard that she who had given so much should have suffered so much and so long.

This is for her.

Ethiopia: a Journey with Michael Buerk - This World. BBC2 Sunday 11th January 2004.


Alan Dix © 2004