A poem by MBALI VILAKAZI.
“The child is not dead, neither at Langa nor at Nyanga nor at Orlando nor at Sharpeville nor at the police station in Philippi where he lies with a bullet in his head.” – Ingrid Jonker
It was the worst thing to happen to you.
You curled up for what seemed like months. You went back to work a little too soon. You lost your job. You drank. Got divorced. Left the city. You lost your home. Lost your mind.
And, after: The grown men with big guns in uniform, the men who
gunned them down.
And, after: All the things you imagined for your children, things
they would never have, things they would never be.
And, after: The things you wish you had done differently.
How are you?
What did you do when the phone calls stopped, when friends and family found your pain too hard, when they no longer had the words for you, when they stopped coming around?
What did you do with the silence?
What did you do with the space:
The empty chair in every empty room
In every family picture
The empty spaces everywhere you go that should be full
It is another year without your child.
Light a candle
Go back there where they were lost to you
Speak their name repeatedly to anyone who will listen
It is all over again.
Every birthday, every day, the should be back to school, the weddings that will never be, first graduate in the family, the grandchildren you will never meet
– an entire generation changed.
What did you do with the blood? (It dirties everything.)
What did you do with the freedom?
Our memorial of sacrifice does not include you.
We have made them our own
When they were never ours.
The child belonged to someone.
The child belonged to you.
And you survived.
And we survived.
They survive too.
You are our process:
Transformation from Tragedy.
We are your Loss turned Legacy. DM
Photo: Umbiswa Makhubo carries the body of Hector Pieterson, photographed by Sam Nzima. Photograph: Sam Nzima/Archive