Burial Ground

by | Mar 28, 2024 | Flotsam and Jetsam

Burial Ground

 

You sailed away in an unmarked grave

a flailing speck on history’s wave

back across that sea.

I saw you, invisible, brave

your every breath

precious to me

poison cross, grit steel grin and a flag

flying high with the soul you gave

to join the ranks

– – – HIV – – –

Rank and defiled, forgotten remnants

of a discarded age

cheeks smooth as ancient thorns

that impis trod

blood dripping for their nation.

Who listen, even now, through the ancestors’ wind

tears slow as stalactites

hands cracked from salty drips

holding on with bitter pride

in a dream, marching ‘cross the plains

assegais thrust to the sky, leathered feet a-dance

stampeding drought-hard bushes that scatter the graves

that ebb you away

on that cold blood sea.

Shards of starlight slice your faces—

but your faces!

They shine through the fog of collective forgettery.

I smile, lifting my hand, but you’re all caught up as one

hauling your strength from under the magnet of death.

Holocaust-thin ribcages rise, brandishing decrepit arms

claiming blade by retching blade

the nubs of our humanity.

All this, I tell you, I see

but really

I just wish you were here

with me.

One day I was out taking photos for a painting and drove past Motherwell Cemetery in Gqeberha (then Port Elizabeth). I was saddened by these basic “gravestones”, which were really just pieces of plastic attached to a metal crossbars. I was involved, at the time, in HIV awareness training and played a tiny part in supporting some kids affected by HIV. It’s an awful disease, made infinitely more so by the loneliness resulting from stigma. I knew that many of these graves held its victims, so the scene really moved me. I imagined the plastic “gravestones” flying away into the sky (Gqeberha is super-windy), and the poem was born.

Written by Lana Hunneyball

Editor I Writer I Author I Poet

I believe in the power of words to connect, inspire, and transform.

"Life is giving birth to yourself" ~ Erich Fromm

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