Orlando: There must be more than grief


That you would not have done this dire massacre on your honour
Ben Jonson, Volpone

Last April, in response to the massacre at Garissa, we quoted, in full, Shailja Petal’s poem, “Garissa.”

Garissa

the morning after a massacre
a country wakes nauseous

no food stays down
no chai comforts

on the roads
they drag crosses

blood is given
blood invoked
blood sanctified
blood is our national language

on TV the men
talk blood and markets

tears
stay out of the newsrooms

there will be more killing
there will always be
more killing

a state will punish survivors
with pogroms

an army will terrorize
the terrrorized, traumatize
the traumatized

the merchants of war
have already moved on
to the next transaction

the death-profiteers spent the night
reviewing cost-benefit reports

a country stares at its amputation stumps
the morning after a massacre

Then in May, we wrote of the factory massacre of women workers in the Philippines; in July the massacre of women and children by the Mexican army and the massacre of women in Khayelitsha, in South Africa, and Mymensingh, in India; and in February the massacre of prisoners in Topo Chico Prison, in Mexico. We wrote of massacres before and there were massacres we did not address since.

This is the age of massacre; we are the ones who have built a global slaughterhouse in a period that is formally at peace. We move furiously and quickly back to the root of our violence, calling it progress or destiny. And today we are in Orlando, wherever we are, afraid to read, listen, watch, as the numbers of lost human lives rises.

“For I must talk of murders, rapes, and massacres,
Acts of black night, abominable deeds,
Complots of mischief, treason, villanies
Ruthful to hear, yet piteously perform’d”
William Shakespeare Titus Andronicus

These reports were once reports of fantastic evil, which now inhabits the everyday. We were meant to know the difference between one massacre and another. We were meant to know the significance of the massacre was its brutal elimination of the humanity of the individuals who were butchered. Now, it’s the massacres themselves that blur.

“We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.”
Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck

By cowardice or courage, there must be more to life than grief, more killing, and the worldwide collective acceptance of reports of tallies and carnage and loss. We must talk of murders, rapes, and massacres, but there must be more than grief.

(Image Credit: Facebook)

Garissa: There must be more than grief

 


Garissa. There must be more than reports of smoke and explosions and flying bullets and destruction and carnage. There must be more than `eye witness accounts’ and there must be more than smart analyses of why Kenya, why now.

There must be other than agony and tales of hiding and emergence, of atrocity. There must be more than parades of corpses and mournful gatherings at funerals and memorials. The work of mourning must build a better road, because the road to Garissa is one of violence, and not only by those who attacked the university this week.

As in the aftermath of the assault on the Westgate Mall, the world performs mourning, and world leaders and their messengers claim `We all stand with,’ and now will say, “Je suis Kenya.” It’s not true. We do not mourn, and we are not Kenya. We watch a spectacle of grief at a distance, as a distance, and, with the Kenyan government, deny that Garissa is a station on a highway built by all of us. We do not study our own responsibility in the bloodshed.

From the beginning of the “Somali adventure”, Kenyan artists in particular warned that all Kenyans would pay. The Kenyan poet Shailja Patel has provided a road map to Garissa. It begins in 1962, when Somali-Northeast votes to join Somalia. It passes through one massacre after another, and through one invasion of Somalia after another, and through one unheeded warning after another.

The road to Garissa does not end at Garissa. It merely pauses, here, in Shailja Patel’s poem, in the morning after a massacre

Garissa

the morning after a massacre
a country wakes nauseous

no food stays down
no chai comforts

on the roads
they drag crosses

blood is given
blood invoked
blood sanctified
blood is our national language

on TV the men
talk blood and markets

tears
stay out of the newsrooms

there will be more killing
there will always be
more killing

a state will punish survivors
with pogroms

an army will terrorize
the terrorized, traumatize
the traumatized

the merchants of war
have already moved on
to the next transaction

the death-profiteers spent the night
reviewing cost-benefit reports

a country stares at its amputation stumps
the morning after a massacre

There must be more to life than grief, more killing, and the worldwide collective acceptance of reports of smoke and carnage and loss in the distance.

 

(Image Credit: The New Inquiry)

Westgate: There must be more than grief

Westgate. There must be more, something more human, than reports of smoke and explosions and flying bullets and destruction and carnage. There must be more than `eye witness accounts’ and there must be more than smart analyses of why Kenya, why now.

There must be more than, other than, grief to unite a people, a nation. Kenyans have responded not only with horror at the violence. They have responded with support, with blood, money, sweat and tears, and prayers.  But there must be more …

Last year, Kenyan poet Njeri Wangari performed part of her poem, “When Change Comes”, to a gathering in Nairobi. The poem begins:

“When villages grow into towns
Towns into cities
Shops into malls
Spaces into estates,
When streets turn into avenues
Avenues into highways, super highways
Subways and runways
Then things change.

Villages become old frail women deserted by their offspring
All gone to the cities with big lights,
Who, unlike prodigal sons, only return in coffins.”

Wangari’s reading omits the last part of the poem:

“When you realize that your fate was sealed in that moment of conception
Even before you took your first breath in this cosmic space
You then know, it takes more than yourself to survive.

When you are born in a small dark room
In the slum-ghettos of Nairobi,
The wrong side of town
Born in the wrong side of jobs
Wrong side of school
Wrong side of life
Wrong side of everything good in life
Except life itself
Then you know it takes more than yourself to be on the right side

It takes governments that are willing to accept the growing gap
The gap between those with and those without
It takes bridging that gap with informal jobs, equal opportunities
With Youth, women, men empowerment bridges
Bridges that seek to empower minds, endanger idlers
Bridges that recapture people’s dream of equal opportunities
And put them back into peoples’ hearts

It takes more than corrupt officials
It takes more than paying taxes for more government officials
It takes more than policemen gunning down innocent youth
It takes more than black men looking down upon their brothers as lesser mortals

It takes leaders willing to listen to the cries of their people
It takes systems that will help its people come out of mental slavery, self pity, oppressed lives
It takes everyman to make that change.
you, me, him, her, them,
Us.”

That was July 2012. A few months later, a poem by Kenyan poets Shailja Patel and Wambui Mwanji wrote a poem, “Our Camera Has Come Home: A Found Poem”. Here it is in its entirety:

Our Camera Has Come Home: A Found Poem

in her absence we could not see properly
a way of being
engendered by her presence
was denied us

we did not die
we were not sick
or even depressed
just newly prone
to random piercings
of grief

she allowed us
to quarrel
with ways of reading the world
she explained
why our eyes stop
where they stop

other cameras
work well
we have nothing against them

other cameras
sit badly in our hands
like borrowed reading glasses

only she who has come home
is ours

The world mourns. The world mourns the loss of poets, such as Kofi Awoonor, and presenters, such as Ruhila Adutia-Sood. The world mourns the loss of those connected to people with names, such as Mbugua Mwangi, nephew to Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta. The world mourns the children, and the adults. Around the world, the national news media report on `their own’ who were killed in the massacre. The Westgate Mall has been a popular, and safe, place for many in Nairobi.

The world mourns, and world leaders and their messengers claim `We all stand with Kenya.’ We don’t. Instead, we watch the spectacle of grief at a distance, as a distance. After the post-election violence of 2007, Kenyan poet Sitawa Namwalie understood this. She understood that a first, decisive step in creating a road to peace would be to scramble the map. When they ask you where you come from, answer “I come from everywhere.”

I come from everywhere

you, me, him, her, them,
Us

only she who has come home
is ours

There must be more to grief, and life, than reports of smoke and carnage and loss in the distance.

 

(Image credit: A Mishmash Life!