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,
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