Beatitude By Nick Makoha (2017)
When a rebel leader promises you the world seen in commercials,
he will hold a shotgun to the radio announcer’s mouth,
and use a quilt of bristling static to muffle the tears.
When the bodies disappear, discarded like husks of mangos,
he will weep with you in the hours of reckoning and judgement,
into the hollow night when the crowd disperse.
When by paraffin light his whiskey breath tells you
your mother’s wailings in your father’s bed are a song
for our nation, as he sits with you on the veranda to witness a sunrise.
say nothing. Slaughter your herd. Feed the soldiers
who looted your mills and factories. Let them dance
in your garden while an old man watches.
Then when they sleep and you blood turns to kerosene,
find your mother gathering water at the well to stave off
the burning. Shave her head with a razor from the kiosk.
When the fury has gathered, take her hand and run
past the fields’ odour of blood and bones. Past the checkpoint,
past the swamp towards smokey disc flaring on the horizon.
Run till your knuckles become as white as handkerchiefs.
Run into the night’s florescent silence. Run till your lungs
becomes a furnace of flames. Run pas the border.
Run till you no longer see yourself in other men’s eyes.
Run past sleep. past darkness visible.
Stop when you find a country where they do not know your name.
This piece of poetry is very thought-provoking and insightful into the impact of rebel rulership in Uganda. However these parallels can be applied to any militia’s rule. The first stanza sets the tone and mood of the poem- a world in censorship and fear. This is illustrated through the ‘shotgun held to the radio announcer’s mouth and ‘bristling static to muffle the tears.’
Furthermore, the use of propaganda in this regime is very apparent. The rebel leader’ promises a world seen in commercials. The use of the word commercial merely suggests advertising and a sense of selling dreams. Furthermore, the word commercial is an American word. This suggests a world which is distant and contradictory to their reality. Nonetheless, this world is promised with a censorship of the truth.
This poem is written in seven stanza’s with three lines each. This structure helps illustrate the directness of the piece and how concise and succinct the writer’s thought are.
Death: The deaths are described as disappearing bodies and lives are discarded ‘like husks of mangoes’. It is not only death of people but also death of livelihoods which is expressed through the lines ‘Slaughter your herd‘ which is an instruction for when all hope is lost. We are constantly reminded of death throughout the poem for instance in the line ‘run past the fields’ odour of blood and bones’.
Oppression: The oppression of women is the song for the nation. This is highlighted through the line ‘your mother’s wailing’s in your father’s bed are a song for our nation’. The writer encourages that within this oppression, you remain silent and ‘say nothing’, Instead, you should appease the oppressors by ensuring that you ‘feed the soldiers
who looted your mills and factories. Let them dance in your garden while an old man watches’. Amidst, all the oppression, the thing you can do is allow it and watch on.
Repetition and Active Tenses: The poem begins with ‘When’ to help set the mood and paints a vivid picture of the regime. Once the imagery has been solidified, Makoha switches to ‘Run’ as the answers to these terrible ordeals. It switches from the inactive ‘when’ to the active ‘run’. This helps illustrates the urgency of the environment as a do or die moment. Lastly, the ‘run’ comes with an instruction of when to cease- you stop running when you reach a country where no one know your name.
Thank you for reading.