The right to life

The right to life? they said
No, not everyone has that, they said.
The Bible tells us so.
Only those of us who deserve it –
the civilised race,
they said.

I tried silence, trapped behind wires that
burn a person to death,
barbed and tall – to keep them out,
or us in, I wondered.

And so it went, teachers
teaching their pupils the virtue
of conformity
of superiority
discrimination.

And then one day I said, better days will come, you know
they smiled and said, yes they will, we know
when all the kaffirs are dead

I said, how do you know?
And they said, because the Bible tells us so.
And I kept silent.

Fourteen and alone, in a school of nazis.

but I asked, why do only you deserve to live
and others must die for being different?
And they said, because the Bible tells us so.
And I kept silent.

For days, weeks, months, lifetimes,
we got up and prayed
we went to school and prayed
“Vater unser, der du bist im himmel…”
on Sundays we went to church

And I asked, why do I have to go to your church?
And they said, because the Bible tells us so.
And I kept silent.

One day during class, the teacher,
reflected on happy memories
back home in Oz, of Sunday drives
in the bush, shooting Abbo’s

Silence left me

and I said that’s wrong.
And they said, no.

But before they could tell me about the Bible
I argued back
Better days will come, I said
and nothing can stop it.

Alone and fourteen
against a school of self-importance and fear,
I submitted to punishment for my sins.

Kneeling on sugar in winter
stacked books on my outstretched arms
hours became days
cutting grass with blunt scissors
boxed in solitary confinement
days became weeks
pages and pages of Revelations
written out over and over
because the Bible tells us so.

But silence had left me.

And I argued back each time.

Until I had no right to live.

I was not civilised and deserving.
I was their captive kaffir,
Kept in their zoo behind wires that bite and sting
Made to suffer for my difference.
Why do you despise me? I asked them
and they answered,
because you are different,
you are a threat.

But why? I asked in my despair
with no way out, no chance for life,
because the Bible tells us so,
They said.

And one day I believed them.
It took almost a lifetime to prove
that they were wrong
their Bible was wrong
their school was wrong

Better days came,
The right to life?

Ours again.

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