I heard your wail ricochet across the land
the day they told you that your child was gone.
For days you had wiped his sweat-drenched brow
cleaned his vomit
until at last you wrapped him on your back
walked to the hospital
hot sun testing your strength.
Your rhythmic movement
comforting his ravaged body,
Your voice soothing
reminding him of his name, of who he is
Wrapping him in mother-love.
At the hospital you found
alien-clad in mask, overalls, gloves and glasses
Healers in a time of Ebola.
They wrenched him from your arms
‘Patient no 1029’.
Stripping him of his name.
The cold metal trolley rolled him
squeaking into a
bleach-cleaned room that only they could enter.
sprayed you clean with bleached water
and locked you up
for 21 days.
With only the clothes on your back
One question forming and unforming:
“How will he heal without a mother’s touch?”
You wanted to speak
But the words stuck to your throat, tears carving a valley inside
creating a pool so deep you were starting to drown within.
Your hands burned with healing love that even the tears could not drench.
Then one day they let you out.
“Go home in peace.”
You asked to see your child.
“He is gone.”
You stood very still for an eternity.
Then you asked
if you could wash and dress him one last time.
If you could take him home to spend his last night
In his father’s house.
You wanted to send a message home so that they could prepare his resting place.
Alien-clad they opened the book and said,
“He was buried last week in a special bag, with the others.”
They walked you to a field not so near,
Pointed to a mound of soil, marked by a small cross with 1029.
The wire around the field held you out.
That is when I heard your wail
To hold you lest you drowned in your own heart.
As each one heard we sang out
a song of mourning
while our tears beat out a dirge on the dusty ground below
and our feet danced the earth soft.
And our sister-circle grew.
The song travelled slow and strong through the earth
And just as you fell to the ground
It rested beneath you, holding you, softening the ground
On which you lay beaten and lost.
We sang and Mother Africa held you to her bosom
Until the pool of tears welling up within burst open pouring
Into the earth, and slowly you stopped drowning
You stood up,
Called his name, danced his farewell then
Walked back home
Carrying the heaviness of this emptiness
In your heart.