_(inspired by a dinner with the Gambian delegation who came to study the post war transitional Justice system in Sierra Leone)_

_“In what tense do we_ _conjugate healing from collective_
_Violence and massacres?_ _Past? Present? Future?_
_… How can we reconcile with people who never_
_Admitted doing wrong?_
_How do I prove I am a victim?_
_Where are the remains of my father?_
_When do we get to go home?_
_Is it safe?_
_Where was God?_
_Where is GOD?”_

Pablo Neruda


Pilgrims of pain came to visit our scars

Wrapped in ihirams of pain ,

Burdened by impurities of impunity,

burnt by the fires of a soul scorched ,

in flames of greed and arrogance

they came holding their hurt in the palms of their heart

to circumbulate the Ka’ba of our wounded memory

Scaling the height of our pain rung by wrong

To reach the hurt buried deep in their core

They opened our scabs with probing scalpels

to march our wounds with theirs;

Wounds for wounds, blood for blood

Pain for pain and hurt for hurt

On the intersection of our humanity,

just by the cross roads of our compassion,

Their pain met with ours and shook hands

Their hurt saw our hurt and winked in cognition

Their wounds looked at ours; eye to eye without blinking

In a deeply bruised voice our hurt spoke to their hurt

In the language of pain;

My wounds are much like yours but different

Yours stabbed in the morning of your life

in the aging hours of the night

Mine in the morning of my life in the noon of the day

Your rape was much like mine but different

Yours done in layers and layers of secrecy

Mine in the full glare at the village square

to un-square the collective mind

Yet both maimed the human spirit

Your killing was much like mine but different

Yours was masked and buried unmarked

Mine was unmasked, unburied yet marked

Grief ate the dinner that night at the Hub

as eeriness hung over the dining table

Like a hang man’s noose on the thorax of a nation

On the contours of both hurts we plotted a pathway

For a nation nursing an open sore

on the shores of the Gambia River while waiting

for Lenrie Peters to write one more poem

to make her land a maiden again

with a calabash of milk edged on her head

to rind the layers of pain tattooed on her thigh

to rip the veil of silence stifling her soul

to shred the hijab of fear swathed on her face

so the land could leave to her mantra again ; Gambia ! No problem


Oumar Farouk Sesay