Did the Children...?

Did the children of old play as we do now? 
Did they play in fields where the grass went to their knees? 
And the finches sang in the trees? 
Did they laugh and fall and cry and sing? 
Did they play as we do now? 

The answer is yes, and the answer is no 

We play in places where war is a mere game 
Where you can place a block and create a home 
Where shooting another being is nothing but a chance to advance 

The children of old played in places where war was their future 
They played where building a home would mean survival 
Where shooting a person would leave blood on their hands and a mark on their soul 

But it was still only a game until it wasn’t 

So, I suppose this is not the question that gives us the answer 
Let us rewrite this poem and see if we can get where we mean to be 
Let us instead ask; did the children pretend? 

Did the children of old pretend as we do now? 
Did they pretend that the world was perfect? 
That all was alright and that all was okay? 
Did they pretend that the world was the problem of the adults 
And that it would be fixed by the time they grew? 

Again the answer is no, and again the answer is yes 

We pretend that our world is ideal 
We pretend that no one is discriminating 
And that no one lives in fear 
We pretend that nothing worse can happen than what already has 

The children of old pretended that their world was flawless 
They pretended that the color of someone’s skin decided their worth 
And that the problems of others were not their own 
They pretended that what was happening would never happen to them 

It was all only pretend until it wasn’t 

Again I fear this is the wrong question 
Or maybe it is half of the whole 
What I wish to know is if the children of old were so different from us 

They played as we did 
But in a way that mattered 
They pretended as we do 
But their ignorance may have doomed us 
They are the same as we are today 
Until they aren’t 

So again let us rewrite this poem 
But instead of asking did the children play 
Or did the children pretend 
Let us combine the two and instead ask; 
Did the children play pretend? 

Did the children of old play pretend as we do now? 
Did they pretend they had wings 
and could fly through the sky? 
Did they pretend they had a tail 
And could swim fast and far? 

Did they play pretend that the future was better 
And that they were alright? 
Did they play that the people who hurt them were only pretending? 
Or did they know the truth about playing pretend? 

That it would die when the clock struck midnight 
And the only children left are the ones who pretended to play

--Helen T., 9th-12th Grade