Poetry by Valentine Okolo

I Will Be Silent

For ‘Karim

“We used to have peace, but now we have only war.”—Halima.

 

I will not speak of the dead
for that is another matter.
I will not speak of those
driven out of their homes
to find shelter in a camp
fenced with strings.
I will not speak of those
raped at dawn. Or of children
shot in the head.

I will not speak of them.

I will not speak of the woman,
round and heavy, like me,
who will give birth to a child she’ll be ashamed to name.

Neither will I speak of
a dozen other women, like her,
and a village which will beget bastards.
I will not speak of the slash—deep in my thigh,
made by a knife: a brand of ownership, the mark of a slave.

No; on such matters I’ll be silent.
Rather, I’ll speak of warm fires. Of oases, dates,
and night songs.
I’ll speak of things that once were.

 

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