The book of Barabbas

Chapter 1. (New Revised Standard Edition Anglicised.) 

Lamentation’s answer. 

1While an encampment that human beings had erected in order to survive their journey away from death was being torn down (because of external decisions), another – longer standing – encampment of human beings who journeyed in search of a better life was deciding its direction. 2The world that could choose was choosing, the world that could not choose was watching and waiting to learn if its future had hope or darkness. 3Beneath the discourse a slight whisper from the hearts of those who themselves couldn’t hear. 4Words, very clear and chilling to the ears of those who were attentive: “am I my brother’s keeper?”.

5Those who heard it, the same who hold the memory of blood from the shepherd’s head-wound dripping on the rock now dropped by his brother, wept. 6They wept alongside the tent pegs that had been left behind when the bulldozers came; 7they wept beside the old men, sifting through the rubble of the old city for signs of the lives they were in denial of loosing; 8they wept with the mothers of sons who were criminalised, lived under the threat of death and its worse sibling twins – incarceration and slavery, sons who were shot before tasting grey. 9They wept as their tears were projected onto the endless feeds as pictures that mocked justice by pointing to guilt that would go unpunished and unchallenged 10(for those with the power to act, didn’t react – the threat never close enough to warrant lifted hands). 11They wept bitterly, tears bursting the underdeveloped levies and washing away their home: 12how were they to call home the place that their stronger brother had claimed for his own – even without birthright?

13These were the days when judges were scarce; when prophets were silent and pharisees were loud; when the widows were hungry – portions served to false kings; 14and the fatherless uncovered – squatting in the shadows of hillside mansions. 15These were the days when no one noticed the wind – no vanes were erected nor sails raised 16and none with oars left the harbour and nets were swapped for fig leaves. 17These were the days when the third crow was unheard, heart unhurt, and stomachs stretched as far as the blood-soaked heaps of coins would allow. 18No one ventured into the wilderness, by the river where the death that saved awaited: opting rather to skirt the edge of the greens on the journeys from fortresses to fortresses. 19Those who bore the truth had arisen and headed to Tarshish by land leaving the outcry of the infants – whose blood also stained the sacrificial rocks – to rise. 

20Then spoke the Lord to the old soldier’s son,

“Gather your garments,

take off the sackcloth;

rinse your head and be clean.

21Cease from your weeping and rejoice,

for now you know my deeds –

my thoughts in the silence

22when with feeble knees I stood,

half alive from the lashes

wearing my crown of thorns

and my blood-soaked robes of glory,

23watching as they chose

to make Barabas their king.

24Come, stand with me in love,

and love from this place beside the tree

till darkness fails and every knee

bows”.

Let him who has ears…

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Poetry 011: Invisible

Invisible

I called them my own; and said they’d know me
Yet all I’d seen was by the flickering head-lights
As the car sped through the forgotten roads
That led away from the city’s concrete shores.
My eyes, as did the slowly emerging stars,
Twinkled over the darkening moors.

I saw their backs, burdened with belongings,
Strained by the weight of the journey ahead;
Arched like the oldest branches of a willow.
Their faces, sudden with the passing light,
Cascades of dust caked, tearless visages;
Uncertain but fearlessly walking into the night.

As the sun ran and hid – for his job was done –
Their faces, like their dusty footprints, vanished.
The roads, once full, had gradually emptied:
I suppose in the darkness, light assailed.
What stained my thoughts were the random apparitions
That with the singing crickets ushered in the night.

My mind wondered as the thoughts of home
– For I was home but in some sense away –
With its paved pathways and streetlights,
Busses, trams, trains, pubs, and corner-shop cafe’s,
Malls, multistory car-parks, greens and squares,
Loosened the snares for slumber’s wake

And then, emerging from the darkness, a child.
He, in tattered garments, pushed a red wheelbarrow.
His bold head and small frame ample to the chore;
I caught a glimpse of his unwrapped sole
As the driver slowed down to avoid a pothole
Then sped off past the pair of tired limbs.

For nights I studied the little red wheelbarrow
With its tiny rubber wheel and worn out handles;
All that was within its burrow was rust,
And the many scars from years of use.
He’d however, like the city and my name, faded
Past the speeding car back into the dark.

I called them my own; and said they’d know me,
Yet all I’d seen was by the flickering head-lights
As the driver slowed down to avoid a pothole.

© Denis Adide 2010

On Invisible

The idea of a sestina and it’s somewhat enclosed space, the six quatrains and final tercet, greatly interested me. I was, at the time of the assignment, reading through Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which is a frame narrative. This couple with frame that the form provided inspired me to write a narrative.

On one level, this poem is about the character’s loss of/search for identity. Being from the “moors” and yet living in the city, the character’s perceptions of himself as well as his sorroundings are challenged on this car journey. The contrasting of light and dark as well as the natural and the constructed were to highlight this search within him for that core – internal individual – that was apart from what he had grown to experience. That all he sees in this more natural world is by artificial light was to highlight the futility of his search. I tried to make it such that his ‘own’, including nature here represented by sunlight, would not know him. He would thus, like the boy with the wheelbarrow, be left invisible in the darkness of a constructed reality.

Moreover, this poem is also about the great divide between the developed nations and the undeveloped nations, the imposition of ‘civility’

with it’s disregard for what, in a sense, took place in the darkness, and the resulting struggle for national as well as individual identity. Again here I chose to contrast the darkness and the light, submersing the images and concepts that they develop into the earlier mentioned discourse on identity. The child pushing the wheelbarrow

, a symbol of development, disappears into the night: a highlighting of the unseen struggle to adapt to a different, and new, way of life for many. The child’s ambitions to be a part of modernity are here carried.

This poem is also about the invisible children of Northern Uganda (thus the title) and the effects of post-independent conflicts on the younger generations.