7th November 2017

“Children” Response

Long-summer scorched, my surfing children

Catch random waves or thump in dumpers,

Whirling, gasping, tossed disjointed.

I watching, fear they may be broken –

That all those foaming limbs will never

Re-assemble whole, together.

All under such a peaceful sky.

All under such another sky


The pictures show some village children

Caught at random, tossed, exploded,

Torn, disjointed, like sticks broken,

Whose jagged scorching limbs will never

Re-assemble whole together.


Title: Children

Text Type: Poem

Poet: Nancy Keesing


“Children,” written by Australian poet Nancy Keesing, uses repetition along with contrasting stanzas, powerful imagery and figurative language to emphasise and highlight the drastic differences in lifestyle between children who grow up in safe and privileged environments and the children who live devastated and dangerously as victims and casualties of war.

In the first verse, Keesing describes herself watching her children playing happily in the Australian ocean on a summer’s day as she expresses her worry that her beloved darlings may be hurt in the surf, articulating her parental instincts, worrying for her children as she catastrophizes a situation that from a wider perspective would be viewed as a happy and safe childhood – “under such a peaceful sky.” However, as the poem transitions into the second stanza, the author uses powerful imagery to change the scenery of the poem, illustrating village children deprived by battle, being caught at random, tossed, exploded as repercussions of a war which they live in the midst of.

As the poet states, in the first verse: “I watching, fear they may be broken – That all those foaming limbs will never Re-assemble whole, together,” Keesing portrays her fear that her children “may be broken” in the violent surf, a worry that would be shared among any over-protective first-world parent in the same situation. However, with similar wording to the statement just discussed in the first verse, the author states “Torn, disjointed, like sticks broken, Whose jagged scorching limbs will never, Re-assemble whole together,” – implies a major contrast between the two similarly-worded excerpts from the poem as a parent’s fear that their children may break and never turn whole again in the first quote from the first verse, the poet’s fear for her children  becomes a reality, but for the village children who are killed by war as portrayed in the second statement: “whose jagged scorching limbs will never, re-assemble whole together.”  This use of comparison and similarly structured and worded sentences assists the poet in emphasising the difference in lifestyles between Keesing’s children and the war-torn ones described in the second verse as it turns a parent’s worst nightmare into a truth for the village children – fear becomes reality.

Keesing, continues using similar sentences with distinctively contrasting meanings to highlight the diversity  between the first and the second verse as well as the Australian children and the ones ravaged by war. The first verse depicts the author’s children being tossed around in the playful surf through the statement, “Catch random waves or thump in dumpers, whirling, gasping, tossed disjointed,” while when the second verse reveals something different in the quote: “Caught at random, tossed, exploded, torn, disjointed, like sticks broken,” – a situation with similar expression to the statement in the first stanza, holds an entirely different purpose. The innocent meaning of the first verse and the exaggeration used to describe the Australian children hurled around in the waves becomes the opposite to the village children in the statement found in the second stanza, describing the children randomly caught by explosions, killed senselessly by war rather than randomly caught by waves as depicted in the first verse.

Another comparison drawn by the poet is the difference between the  meaning of the word “scorched” in both stanzas, again building diversity between the two verses and the lifestyles of the different children. In the first verse as the reader comes across the line “long-summer scorched, my surfing children,” we naturally interpret the word scorched, as warm, tanned, sunburnt skin as a result from the long summer which Kessing talks about. However, as I quote from the second verse: “Whose jagged scorching limbs will never re-assemble whole together.” we can interpret a completely different comprehension of the meaning behind the word “scorching” as we learn that the village children’s jagged limbs who will never reassemble whole together are not scorching from playing under the warm sun for a long summer – these children are scorching: their skin boiling, sizzling,  burning to bits, due to the blasts and detonation of explosives that continue to heartlessly hunt and kill innocent children.

Between these two verses, the poet  has created a bridge that allows a transition between the two incompatible stanzas. Keesing rounds off the first verse by stating “All under such a peaceful sky” implying that everything that was taking place described by the poet in the first verse was taken place in a dream compared to the events that take place in the second stanza which she opens with stating “All under such another sky,” again calling focus to the difference  between war-torn and privileged children

This passage that Keesing uses to progress from the first verse to the second, stating that these two vastly different situations are taking place under two different skies has made me come to the realization of that the reality is that these two situations actually take place under the one, same sky. The sky that we live our peaceful, simple and non-problematic lives under is in fact the exact same sky that covers the children who have been struck and killed by war, living every moment on a brink between life and death or no longer living at all. I have realised that when we swim in the ocean, we swim in the same ocean where refugees are right now drowning as they try to make their way to peace and safety, escaping conflict – the only barrier between us being a sea of water. This has made me think how by breathing, we are inhaling air that may once have been the last breath of one of the village children – a child that never got the chance to fulfil their dreams and maximum potential because their life was cut short because of a cold-hearted conflict.

Keesing’s powerful use of imagery and carefully selected words supporting her illustration of the lives of privileged children and disadvantaged children, living as victims of war and on the edge in every moment of their day –  leaves me with a hollow feeling inside. That under the same sky that covers me right now, lie children, with lives and ambitions just like me, who’s lives will in moments be cut short due to the the destruction brought around by civil unrest and war, kids living everyday on the brink of death simply because of the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nancy Keesing has made me realise that those village children, deprived by the fallout of a war, could just as well have been me or you – these children were caught at random in a selection for misfortune – while I, and the poet’s children described in the first verse are brought up in peace and advantage purely out of luck.

Respond now!