Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1


He is still those boys at night when his dreams
are laced with genocide. When day breaks
and the armless beggars wander down Big Waterloo Street
he vaguely recalls something distant and obscene.

Two years of school taught him the potency
of humiliation. Some days back he saw his real teacher, the Colonel,
speaking with a white man in a suit outside the bank.
He wanted to run over, fall at his feet,
beg the Big Man to take him back into the fold.

Weary of petty crime he’s ripe for another thrill ride
on the blade of a machete. He says nothing out loud
to anyone: the Colonel taught him the value of patience.
He knows one day the call will come again and, when it does,
he’ll be the first to sign up. He’s not afraid
of death—his or other people’s. He knows what they see:
a homeless Temne, a bobo, a dog.

Something bubbles inside his head. He lies
awake at night by the fetid open sewers
and listens to militias of rats on food raids.

Disarmed and dangerous, the child waits for democracy to spring a leak.  end

   Temne—A tribe in West Africa
   bobo—Krio term for a small boy