The Sea

January 19, 2008
Preface: During the 1970’s in South Africa, uprisings against segregation and the teaching of Afrikaans in primarily black schools were increasingly common. The language was associated with apartheid and white oppressors. On June 16th, 1974, in Soweto, the Soweto Students’ Representative Council’s Action Committee organized a mass protest, which involved most schools in Soweto. Police arrived on the scene, first using dogs and tear gas to disperse the students. Chaos ensued when a group of children threw rocks at the officers, and shots were fired at the children. 20 children were pronounced dead that day. June 16th is now recognized as Youth Day, on which South Africans honor children.
Late last night
in a land so far but near,
an aging woman
entangled in thought,
wrestled with her mind
as her toes squeezed and crinkled powdery sand.

Her lips clung together,
trapping her secret past.
Despondent now
hopeless and haggard,
she recollects
all the crumbling memories of her childhood.

She skipped off to school
on her dirt-dusted toes,
gripping the torn edges of her only white blouse.
The schoolyard
arid, but flowing with students.
And all the children stepped outside to rally.
Fervent messages surfaced from the wave
of students.
Too short, she saw only the tips of signs.

The older students
exchanged predictions,
yet she only quivered and wondered
shivered and pondered
the untold impending fate.

She was rocked and tossed.
Angry fighters at her side,
dogs howling to her left
and screams close behind.
She was a speck
overwhelmed by hundreds.

The hand of her friend wandered to hers,
assured her eventual peace.
Yet tsunami rose from the wave
and the police,
they fired
hundreds of bullets to make it cease.

She fell and concealed her tiny body
beneath those who have deceased.
Blood clung to her only blouse
Salty tears seeped under her tongue.
Digging her nails into the field,
she would be buried here,
if she didn’t run until her thighs
gave out beneath her feathery body.

The wave broke behind her,
followed by the clash
of children into parents’ trembling arms,
worn sneakers into orange earth,
and bullets into motionless chests.

So after 32 years
she still cries
for the wave,
for all who died.
Thirsty and thinning, she fades out of history,
with sounds of the ocean in her dry mind.

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