One Poem

Yarri Kamara

Blood in the Water


(With a line from Dave Matthews Band’s song Don’t Drink the Water, 1998)

As the others,
the Africans, said prayers,
hosted, protected, protested

As seven-year-olds
schemed: surely
if we all march from Dar es Salaam
to Robben Island

surely they would be free

Their lives were being designed
for clinically thorough humiliation:
no pass book, go to jail

Rations were being calculated
according to color,
Black: no milk, no meat, nothing sweet

Families were being torn asunder
to feed the hungry mines
and water uselessly lush lawns

And the blood
was seeping out
of their hearts
into the water.

Their hearts emptied and shrivelled.

And when the rainbow shone,
some of their sons said,
Don’t drink the water,
there’s blood in the water

And fled.

And the hearts of those who would not flee
became puffed with expectations
that smelt like ethylene.
Danger. Flammable.

And those born after the rainbow
drank the water
and the blood in the water
inflamed their own blood

And the nation boiled with rage.

Cover image: Transkei bumper sticker, hmvh, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons