This poem is about victims of political violence related to the "rigged and
contentious" 2008 elections in Zimbabwe.
It is true: I saw it on Sky News this morning.
There were some bones in a laundry bag,
You know, those big ones with a pattern of blue and red checker.
You see people carrying their shopping in them.
At first I saw a femur, then a tibia,
and I thought someone had killed a cow.
Then there was a pelvic bone.
The person was digging them out of this bag,
Like you take out your cans of peas and peaches in syrup.
They reminded viewers that these pictures might be disturbing.
Then the camera moved to the skull.
You shouldn’t say the wrong thing you know,
Or support the wrong side.
They interviewed the widow.
They showed unclaimed victims shrouded in mortuaries of silence.
I’ve seen the vehicles without registration numbers driving around,
Watching, collecting, transporting.
Silence is the operative word,
Didn’t you know?
Then they showed a woman crawling in a pile of rubbish,
Filling an old yogurt pot with water from a baked beans tin.
I caught the words “so many are living like this…”
Maybe they should say
“What do so many have to live for?”
Is it better to clamp up in fear or to speak out
and encase your bones in blue and red checkered plastic?
Delfina Barschdorf’s play about
immigration, The Five Orders of
Tolerance, was part of a project which
won two British Diversity Awards in 2005.
Currently based in Zimbabwe, she is
working on a collection of poetry, Voices
of the Savannah. She is also working on a
novel series, a series of articles and a
nonfiction book about American Jesuit
missionaries working in Africa. She
previously wrote literary and art criticism.
2nd Place: $100