This was not the sin
for which Carthage must die.
The scale is sometimes disputed
by historians; it is difficult to say
which exactly was the practice, and which
the demonization of a defeated foe.
Cartago delenda est.
Reason alone states the plausibility
of child sacrifice in an era
where the unwanted
(the extra mouths, the daughters instead of sons)
might be exposed; at the core
of the story of Abraham taking Isaac to the mountain
is the expectation that children are an expected sacrifice.
For numbers, it is impossible to know
as the infants were sacrificed in fire.
The rich folk of Carthage
were said to have blamed their defeat
upon the substitution of the children of the poor
for their own; Human nature is to look for the greatest gain
with the least personal inconvenience.
Even in their desperation, they did not sacrifice themselves
but their children.
Children are the gateway to fear.
One always dreads the things that might come to be:
the stranger on the road,
the inattentive driver,
the disease that a parent cannot end.
The fear that your child might be the next to be chosen
could be balanced against the feeling that the worst has fallen.
A parent could relax; no more woe.
That fatal piety echoes in our legacy of horrors; we shrink from the thought
of children in the fire.
Not that. Never that.
Never the children in their mothers’ arms,
headed towards the showers.
Never the victims of chemical weapons
(looking just as our children do when asleep
but still, so still)
Never in our own communities.
Not ours, at the least,
victims of the triumph of fear over hope.
Cartago delenda est,
lest we be forced to think
that in some ways, we have progressed no further
than the sacrifice of children to the blazing fire.
October 25, 2009