In event of Mandela’s birthday, I had written another poem for a competition related to Africa’s struggle for freedom. My parents loved it, but the poem failed to win acclaim in the competition. Somehow I didn’t take this to be fair, so just thought of publishing it in a magazine or something. But even this is not as easy as it sounds. For the time being, I’ve decided to publish it here. If you like it, kindly say so coz that would just make my day. I’m trying my best not to sound desperate (I’m not!) but not winning the competition, really put me in a fragile place. The poem is in first person, about a girl who has been taken away from her homeland, perhaps Africa, and subjected to slavery. The poem recounts her experience of racism, coupled with struggle and torture, about how she is treated like a commodity—trapped in a box, travelling in a truck, and then finally emptied out. Initially she thinks she is free, but as the poem progresses it seems clear that she had it all wrong. She is free, true, but free only for more brutality and discrimination. Finally, towards the end of the poem, she is sick of it and speaks up. Using voice as a weapon, she demands her rights and racial parity. Her heart turns a fire, freedom an ignition. Once again she finds herself free, only that this time she is not mistaken. She is, indeed—free, at last.
Here’s how it goes…..
FREE, AT LAST
Somewhere in the heart of land unknown
Among the swarms of filth and cries,
A weight, conquering the head
Stood I, in dark despise.
Life, was a blunder
My body, a price
Freedom, a lost hope
And my skin, an abhorring sight.
Oh, the weight was too much
I must be young,
For my feet were small;
Patches of supple skin burnt in the relentless sun.
I could see a man, a man of different colour
Fairer than mine, darker than peace
Money in one hand, in the other—
My arm he seized.
For days I was trapped, crammed in a box
Beneath my feet were tyres turning,
Face sweating with heat of the engine fuel burning
I was emptied out—free, at last.
Free? Oh yes, free to sweep the floors
Free to mop the rooms,
Free to roam around
With my hands clutching pans and brooms.
I was beaten, taunted when I broke something
Called black, coloured, a nigger,
My pleas fell on deaf ears
Only injury, was what they triggered.
Is this what it’s about? My race, my colour?
The very reason why my equality was severed?
But that shall not last long, I vowed to myself,
I’ll demand more, empower what I’ve long said.
Now I saw a woman in me, a woman of different colour
Fairer than whites, shimmering like peace
Voice in one hand, in the other—
Freedom, I seized.
For days I have been trapped in a system of black and white
Beneath my feet are whites mourning,
Trapped in the echoes of a black soaring
I have voiced myself out—free, at last.
Liked the poem? Do comment.
P.S: The purpose of the poem is not intended to blemish the image of the whites. Kindly acknowledge that the poem is an ‘account’ of slavery, not a ‘breaking news’ on CNN or whatever. It’s set in the past, to the time when slavery was as prevalent a crime as cyber bullying is now. Then again, it will never be as menial as the latter.