Little hands

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Little hands 
For Michael Komape

Little hands that on a warm 
Limpopo day tied old brown 
String through black school shoes, 
Old and torn, to keep them on, 
Looped ’round his ankles, too.

Little hands held mama’s skirts 
And brushed his little teeth that day, 
Then pushed the rusty gate that creaked, 
Waved the flies that flew away and on 
The way to school would click and scratch 
His hair and cheeks.

Little hands that would have grown 
To big hands that could have known 
A steering wheel beneath its palms, 
Another’s love, beer bottles’ cool glass, 
Hands thrown up in glory, protest, pain. 
We only guess where hands will go, 
Our own, larger, calloused, just the same.

A little hand was raised that day. 
“Toilet, please.” Relief at last as little feet 
Went up the path and landed at the 
Pit latrine, each step innocent, 
Keen, trusting.

An hour passed. Then eyes looked down 
The toilet’s ditch, and there at last his little 
Hand stuck reaching for the sky. 
From a sea of faeces and flies the 
Little hand had tried and tried. 
Had climbed and swum as wastage rose to 
Fill his lungs, his ears, his nose –

A mother’s tears will never clean the stains 
From off his shirt, or the shame that’s buried in 
Our dirt, deep in the soil; our country’s land 
Is poorer now, forevermore, without that 
Little hand.

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