Monday, March 17, 2008

Ode to Joy by Chris Abani

John James,14,
refused to serve his conscience up
to indict an innocent man.
Handcuffed to chair, they tacked his penis
to the table
with a six inch nail
and left him there

to drip
to death
3 days later.

Risking death, an act insignificant
in the face of this child’s courage,
we sang:

Oje wai wai,
Moje oje wai, wai.

Incensed
they went
on a
killing rampage.

Guns
knives
truncheons

even canisters of tear-gas,
fired close up or
directly into mouths, will
take the back
of
your head off
and many men
died singing,
that night.

Notes caught,
surprised,
suspended
as blows bloodied mouths,
clotting into silence.

From _Kalakuta Republic_. London:SAQI, 2000.