June 16th, 1976.
I remember that day. It was on that day that I felt that teasing rush that made my fists clench. It was on that day that I felt hatred -it was tender, but scarily satisfying to feel that forbidden emotion. And I can feel it once more…
…at a dangerous state:
This is my country’s soil. I feel it, I smell it. I shudder with the thought that your rotting body now lays among my people’s soil. As this body decomposes, its decay may capture every grain of our South African ground –as it did my people, my honour and my dignity. The only relief that I have is that I do not have to fear you now. I think of the black man, put to labour to dig the hole that you lay within. The white man would then walk away and let the black man refill the hole. This thought is satisfying- the black man in power, throwing crushed rocks and earth over your coffin. Yet, it makes me weep- the black man taking the order from the white man to throw the crushed rocks and earth over your coffin. Huh. This is the life of my people. We hear stories of relief; tales of reform, word of change, but behind every promise lays a sham that will only further empower the white man.
I will move this soil. Once I have moved this soil I will set your coffin alight…fry your white skin into the pitch that is me. You will then share our colour. Oh, the misery! The dread! I laugh. Your soft hair twisted into dread. The thought makes me laugh. You, baas, you will not be able to live the life you offer so graciously to our people.
It starts to rain. This halters my plans. I will continue to move this soil, and then I will wait, until the skies clear, to burn you. I observe the purity of each drop. It has no colour, and I wonder what South Africa would be like if there was no colour. Then, I imagine the dark of my skin twined with the diaphanous colour of the drop of rain. Like a piece of dark glass. This glass would then represent both the black and white people of this country. Yet, trying to see through the piece of glass may be difficult. Maybe there is no hope for this country. Maybe we cannot live together, because we will forever see through eyes of hatred, racism and anger. Yes! Yes! Blacks and whites do not belong together! I will continue to look through this piece of dark glass. It will show my country as it is suppose to be -dark.
I am a strong, black South African man. I am not a savage! I do not belong to the heathen race. I belong in this country. You do not. I will fight until this country is for my people only! I do not want the white man to tarnish the existence of this country. A rain drop spatters on a patch of dry “coloured-people-colour” soil…the water turns the soil darker. Ha! This is the black man’s country.
Our father, who art in heaven. I snort. Lord, almighty and all powerful god, hallowed be thy name! I stand here and mock you! Rebuke! Show me discipline! Punish me now! Like you always have, for my life is but punishment. I have suffered enough in this sham that is life to justify my complaint. Now, I read this to your grave, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This god you speak of, boer, I cannot praise. For his scriptures embody the lie that we live. The pages speak only of stories of your type of people. Then, this is a god for the whites, is it not? Thy kingdom come. No. I am not going to foolishly allow myself to be drawn to the fake world of bullion and pearls. This world too is reserved for the white man. I’d rather remain within the depths of the soil of my country. I’d rather further darken my skin in the pits of Hell than exist in an afterlife where I will most likely be unequal, inferior… again. I’d rather be in the warmth of the Truthful. He who have not lied and promised happiness.
It was the day before the 16th when I held the holy book to the skies and prayed and cried and pleaded. It was the day before, when I went down on my knees and begged this lord to save me. And the next day, I saw my friends, my brothers, being shot down. I saw their blood create a striking contrast with the brown of the earth. And I wept! No god appeared to console me. I cannot worship another white man. I cannot trust something, someone that I have not seen- someone I have not touched. I have tried; for I loved you once lord. I have worshiped and praised the white man for the wise scriptures that he had enlightened me to. Now I cry, because I have been fooled. Again. There is no god. There is no fucking god. Or, rather, there is no god for me. I brought this holy book with me today. I watch the rain drench the book. I smell the black ink on the white pages. I think of how desperately I want this war between races to end, but then I see the rain soaking the pages of the holy book. I watch, passively, as the dark ink conquers the white pages.
Now I stand here in this graveyard and observe your grave. Ha! I will move this soil. I will move this soil to reach you! There was love in my country once and you tarnished that existence with odium. Abhorrence! This unfamiliar emotion broke the bonds of love in my country. And I want my vengeance. You entered our home and schemed your way through those woven patterns of love, anchored to our soil, like the roots of a baobab tree. You unraveled these roots and brought along hatred, even amongst my people! Now, with that one emotion -hatred- this country has become nothing but futile weed. I now stand here and observe your grave.
I have moved the soil, and I see your coffin. I want to open the casket, but it is terrifying to see a face that so scornfully changed my life, but I feel wholesome hatred now, and nothing can threaten me. Once the rain stops, I will burn you. You will die! Again! You died once, at a god’s will. Now, you will die again, for my people. No, do not call me ignorant. Not anymore. I stand still and stare at your coffin, as I wait for the skies to clear, for the dark clouds to turn to white. The rain settles so neatly on my coarse hair and washes away the dark caked soil on my skin…only to reveal more darkness.
Boer: An Afrikaans word for “farmer”. Derogatory term for a white Afrikaans person.
Baas: An Afrikaans word for “boss”.
Story adapted from the poem:
Like A Rose
By: Tuna Coetzee
Thorned, yet displayed in cold crystal.
A misplaced seed.
How is it that you be among tantamount beauty?
As you drink my soul,
Leaving behind dry and rocky abhorrence, I weep
For your roots seem anchored.
The earth where you grow
Once was moist and blossomed of that that is not hate.
Now your presence devours,
And musters waterless dirt
I shall not mourn, I shall not.
For there is merriment when you demise
You are futile weed, yet you leech into my stem,
And drain my existence as do pests
Showers, I want you not,
For you choose not whom you give
I need to watch you thirst,
Then I shall wait.
Or- if plucked, but little time,
You will wither into ashes… dust
And there be worthy, among compost.
He loves me, he loves me not…
Looking down on scattered red
The heated sun, ruminating orange,
Upon drops of fire
I spurn, I trample you into the earth,
Down below…Down below
I now observe your decay
Reeking of rotten remembrance
Now wilted-at long last my happiness.