Wednesday, April 29, 2009


An intruder
Through the unlocked door
Came in
From sleep I heard the screaming
Blood runs cold as ice
Blind panic down the passage
To find safety
To get help
To get out
To survive
And there a seventeen year old boy
On the ground
The villain child
From across the way help
Drunk from festivities
An April wedding
Cold champagne
Flowers and cake
Four men
Beers in hand
Without speaking
The blows are delivered
I hear the boy moan in pain
I hear one of the men
I am in a parallel universe
This is a dream
My family, my son, my loved ones, my friends
In the house
What were you doing?
I am hungry; I am starving his explanation – his apology?
What ifs run like wild fire through my mind
Violent crime brought home
What if I had disturbed him?
Did he have a weapon?
A gun?
What would he take from me?
Me and him
Us and them
Another blow and the boy restrained lies on the ground
A kick is delivered to his head and ribs
The viciousness sickens me
He is a threat to my and our safety – he is wrong – he deserves this
He deserves this?
The police arrive
They bring dogs and flashlights
The beating continues in their hands
They hit him with truncheons – they will make him talk
They take a statement
Bleary eyed and shocked we bear witness as he is loaded into the van
He does not talk as men leer at him through the bars
He is silent
It is dark and I can’t even see his face
I don’t think I can see his face
We assimilate
We break down
We exchange information and newspaper headlines
This is Africa
Thank God no one was hurt
A statement is written down – charges laid
Our defender is tearful
He apologises to the officer
This is my first time he says
Like it’s a rite of passage
Like it was inevitable the day would come
He reveals the bite marks on his shoulder
Is the boy another Statistic of Poverty stricken Africa?
We need to get him to the hospital
We need to get him ARV’s
Just in case
The skin may be broken
There is no blood
The skin
Oh no my dear
So much more
A groomsman bears a bump on his forehead from head butting the boy to submission
He is drunk
It’s the only language they understand he says
I am sorry if the violence offended you
It’s not fair to generalize
They shot my family
I was on the deck of a sports bar overlooking the sea
First cold beer in hand
Got the call
My mother, father, sister, brother, aunt shot
They survived
They were liberals
They fought in the struggle
My father convinced us it would be alright to stay
It’s not
It’s not
I think of my aunt murdered in front of her children for a cell phone
I think of the value of life
I think of the boy and his life
I think of what he could have done to me
My brother
How his intrusion at a celebration shattered something so deep in me I don’t know if it can be fixed
They did not find a weapon
We searched
But what if he had?
Would he have shown us mercy?Why does he deserve to get away with it?
Who will he hurt next?
In some ways I hoped they’d find something
So I could have the easy answer
His beating
Was greater than him and his intrusion
His beating
Was about something older and deeper than him
In one night he became the vessel for our distrust and anger
He became our regret
And our vengeance
He became the face of every rapist and gun-toting criminal
This man boy
Who when my heavily pregnant friend held onto his arm looked at her and said
It is going to be ok…It will be ok
Why should I fucking care?
They drove away with him
This beaten kid
This despicable
I watch my Friends face – he has tears in his eyes
He was our protector
Without him something so much worse could have happened
This is South Africa
This is what happens here
We are lucky…
They drive him off to a government hospital to get the drugs
We sit waiting for the light
Waiting to leave
We are high on adrenalin
We are amped
We are fearful
We have breakfast together overlooking the Indian Ocean
My friend flies a kite with his four-year-old son who slept clutching his teddy bear through the whole ordeal
He does not know his father and mother defended him
He does not know the danger they faced
He is fine.
We laugh
We make jokes
We save face
We try to make sense
Package the experience in a palatable pill
We scratch the surface of the wound
Our laughter is loud and unruly
The jokes inappropriate
My brother recounts his experience of violence
At least you felt humanity someone says
What can I say?
I cried for my aunt today
I did not cry back then
I cried for the countless victims of violence
I cried for some part of me that died in that beach cottage
I cried in relief
I cried in anger
I cried in empathy
And I still do not know how to reconcile
That some of those tears
Were for the boy in the police van
Who would be locked in a cell for the night and released in the morning
Who will probably return to a life of crime
Who will probably become more violent
Who will probably be another statistic
Because there is nothing else
Because this is Africa