Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Bound Together

Bound together in blood and sin
An odd couple really, the mother and the leader
Death made the introduction, arranging their first encounter
Shock and loss exchanged small talk with guilt and responsibility
From those awkward beginnings there was a progression
Yet in their meeting of minds there was no consolation
There would remain something tentative about their manner
Even as others would be disconcerted with their ease with each other

Bound together by grief
To lose your daughter out of symbolism
Hatred that branded her as a target of opportunity
A target, disembodied. Acts of war they might dare say
It came to this, she'd been reduced to an abstraction
But from the fury came a leap of imagination
Contra despair came a choice to forgive
Once made, the decision would be all consuming
Not everyone would understand your life's new direction
To seek out the flesh that spilled your own blood

Bound together by guilt
You sent those young men out to do their damage
Two comrades enlisted on an armed footing
Equipped with guns and hand grenades that evening
They acted on your orders and were all too successful
Shots fired, they unleashed carnage on that tavern
Escaped cleanly to live another day, they made their return
The whole country would be shaken by this violent action
In the quiet moments of the aftermath and ensuing years
You steeled yourself with the knowledge of your part
But could never forget the burden of regret they brought back

Bound together, the irony of the journey
That comfort wasn't found with those who pulled the trigger
Their story was uncomplicated, they'd shed blood and murdered
They would confess to the commission, we were following orders
Politically motivated, the liberation struggle, we were foot soldiers
Rather, the connection was with the one who ordered the massacre
Instead of wrath and acrimony, the start of a conversation
Uncanny really, genuine and miraculous this pattern of exchange
Bound together, you started talking, you talk to this day

Bound together by a word, apartheid
Spectral, even now, it taints all it touches
Repressive, it leaves no heart unblemished
Daily horror brought home, mundane, it didn't spare any blushes
And now, in its place, hollows and absences
Death, not as a visitor, but as a live-in companion
Cruelty the midwife and, for the many, poverty
Grief as surrogate delivering the contracted newborn
Swaddling cloths dipped in blood to wrap your emotion
And sleepless nights to attend to your condition

Bound together in shame, it's all too tawdry
Picking up the pieces, rescuing comfort from the act of empathy
To make the best of things, finding the sacred even in ugliness

Bound together, and what of the others?
Those who lost loved ones
Those who still walk off-kilter, with injuries and pain

Bound together even at a remove
Those who put the can of peaches back on the shelf at the grocery
Boycott and sanctions, you see, we have to do our duty

Bound together, those who sang Free Nelson Mandela and advocated actively

Bound together, even those who were quick to claim it was ancient history
That is was time to move on from this unpleasant business

Bound together then, the mother and the leader
Bound together, a narrative of connection that goes beyond religion
Bound together, exploring the boundaries of the human condition
Bound together, seeking to understand motivation
Bound together to bear the costs of forgiveness and love
Bound together, the clarifying role of empathy
Bound together, the hard work of imagination
Bound together, the long journey towards truth and reconciliation
Bound together, we tread the hallowed ground paved by conversation

Khayelitsha container housing

Bound together, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note - returning to South Africa (spotify version) Bonus beats: a live version of Busi's urban zulu track


After reading The Cost of Reconciliation and learning about about Ginn Fourie, her daughter Lindi Fourie, and Letlapa Mphahlele.

See previously: Heidelberg Tavern Massacre


I nominate this note for The Things Fall Apart Series under the banner of The Rough Beast, which asks: who is writing the script?

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Writing log. Concept: February 26, 2004. April 6, 2022

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