South Africa, May 2008
Today I do not love my country.
It is venal, it is cruel.
Lies are open sewers in the street. Threats scarify the walls.
Tomorrow I may defend my land
when others X-ray the evidence:
feral shadows, short sharp knives.
I may argue our grievous inheritance.
On Wednesday I may let the winded stars
fall into my lap, breathe air’s golden ghee, smell the sea’s salt cellar, run my fingers
along the downy arm of the morning.
I may on Thursday read of a hurt child
given refuge and tended by neighbours,
sing with others the famous forgiving man
who has forgotten who were enemies, who friends.
But today, today, I cannot love my country.
It staggers in the dark, lurches in a ditch.
A curdled mob drives people into pens, brands them like cattle,
only holds a stranger’s hand
to press it into fire,
strings firecrackers through a child,
burns stores and shacks, burns.
Ingrid de Kok has published five volumes of poetry, most recently Seasonal Fires and Other Signs.