from Three African Lives

The General

He wore violence like a pair of boots.
A name they cursed in every land.
It meant madness, it meant darkness.
He censored laughter, his nod was death.
He cancelled meaning and exiled dreams.
He was the beginning of terrible tears.
So that the sun set when he spoke
and darkened skies threatened.
He fed the earth with corpses
and the soil would not crop.
A fattened kind of fear was born.
Morning had the smell of sour soup.
Women were no longer flowers.
Men flowed like water, pulled by pressure.
It was history with all its sickness
spewed out of one mouth.
It lasted long, it broke many records.

Then grief pounced on him like a jungle cat,
like a poison that creeps in from an offered drink.
A man deprived of his choice conclusion.
The wind whispered it abroad.
They gathered their pain to dump in his grave.
Such was the wonder of his passing -
not like a bold banging storm,
or like bootsteps on parade,
or divas at exit riding their moment,
not as he had ruled.
But like a wind that shuffles past
not blowing, tired, expired,
like a light touch, strangely like peace.


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