Monday, 21 February 2011

February 1984

( This poem is an elegy to the 5,000* people who were killed on February 1984 in what is commonly referred to as the Wagalla Massacre. This is their story, these are their voices.)

I am a ghost in your conscience
Gnawing at your beleaguered mind
Screaming not in graveyard
But expanse of nothingness;
I am a haunted ghost.

I am the shame in your heart
That no amount of soul-searching will cleanse
I am the dirt, the forgotten stain
Dotting your fabric.

I am a roving spirit in Tarbaj, Leheley,
Wajir-Bor, Khoraf Harar, Bulla Jogoo
Wagalla Airstrip;
I refuse to settle, tormented is my phantom.

I walk in broken steps, head bowed,
Carrying the shame of my corrupted tale
Desert heat carrying the stench of my death
The wind carrying the dirge in my breast.

We are a legion spirits
Of ruptured brains, cindered bodies, rotten flesh
We carry the laceration of our raped bodies
On our backs are canvasses of mad artists
Our scars tell a story, we need not say it.

Our spirits have those images:
Naked bodies on hot gravel, gun shots
Last rigours of bodies clawing at life
Perfect job, clean work.

We are a story that will not die
You may obliterate us
You may extirpate what happened
But our kindred spirits
Will be the story.

I often wonder the symbolism it brings
Annihilation at an airstrip:
To never allow dreams take off?
To keep us back to the penury of the ground?

Sometimes as spirits we often laugh
At the sense of humour: Of watching you rape our wives,
make us drink our urine, then scatter our brains
Now, those are the ingredients of a good horror movie.

C) Lorot Salem 2011

Poet's Note:

* The official government position has been that only 57 people were killed during the Wagalla Massacre. However, others put the figure at 5,000.

In preparation to write this poem, I had to read a couple of materials including Wagalla Massacre: The Untold Story, Blood on the Runway: The Wagalla Massacre of 1984 by S. Abdi Sheikh.

As the author writes: "The Wagalla Massacre story has every bit of a horror movie; blood and scattered brains, severed limbs, rotting flesh and mass graves".

The pain that these people went through was heart-rending, if we are to go by the accounts. They were told to lie down on their chests on the hot tarmac. Those who disobeyed were shot, others died of heat exhaustion. Others were showered with petrol and set ablaze.


Kim Nelson said...

A poem with great intensity.

the Crow himself said...

Gut wrenching.

Some very strong lines. 'Broken steps, head bowed' and 'hot gravel' are some of the sharpest images. The last two stanzas finish the piece very well. Driving the horror and the spiritual tragedy home. Thank you for this meditation.

Salem Lorot said...

@ Kim Nelson, thanks so much...what more should a fellow poet say
@ The Crow himself, you are apt in your observation..thanks for stopping by

...will be visiting your blogs soon. :)

simonpoetically said...

Graves don't speak
they mumble words
only the haunted gravediggers hear
Them murderers, though calm on the surface
Inside is a torment they can't bear
Graves don't speak
But memories do
asking, why, who...........?

Salem Lorot said...

Those are hard questions you pose, Simonpoetically. Now, this could as well be a sequel. I love the line 'graves can't speak/ memories do.

As usual, much grateful.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Powerfully written. So many devastating events happening through these years. Your voice raises awareness. You speak for those whose voices have been silenced.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Back for another remembering, after a comment on facebook. Wow, kiddo. You have a powerful voice. Do keep writing, and bearing witness, even though life is busy. You have a gift.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Back for another remembering, after a comment on facebook. Wow, kiddo. You have a powerful voice. Do keep writing, and bearing witness, even though life is busy. You have a gift.

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