Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Clinical Review

Management of the severely malnourished child: perspective from developing countries

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 18 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:146

Rapid Response:

The Black Madonna and her Child


TV announces: We are told to make so bold:

Some scenes are rather grim

The water gone, the seed is used

To leave a blackened plain

The ring of pain and death begins

To our eternal shame.

There begins an endless walking

To seek a soothing place,

To wait for help from any source

‘Til hope and strength begins to die.

The young and black Madonna

Exhausted from her load

Squats down upon the dust

To shade her dying child.

With balded head and flyblown eyes

His tiny twisted frame

No artist’s brush could disguise

This all embracing pain

And to soothe, she gently rocks

As she did when they were one

For pain has always been her lot

From birth and work or peace and war

There was no other life

And she screams the endless scream

That echoes in the skies

No sound is made you must kneel down

To see it in her eyes

For now she knows the pain will go

As they are near to die.

But why to you and not to me?

Adams’ seed was common ground

Did you turn left when we turned right

Was that all it had to be

Did simple fate decide your pain

Or was a godhead watching all

Have you had hell upon this earth

For heaven at a distant shore.

A cup of water, hot or cold

Bears no merit here

But many wells and surplus food

Is the least that we can do

Oh! Switch it off, please turn it off

They spring from a different Lore

It isn’t grim, its grimmest grim

And I can bear no more.

Barry Hemphill

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

30 January 2003
Barry F Hemphill