15 December, 2004Issue 4.1Creative WritingOriginal Poetry

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Scrambled

Michael Donkor

Written at Elmina Castle, Ghana

In this boxed room of dark,

there were no holes for ventilation.

Although the walls were a stinging white, white as salt,
dressed as the rest of the fortress,
He could not tell their colour. His fingers felt only for
shadows, and crumbling brick.

This proud beacon, erect before unruly waves, housed slaves.

This was his punishment. To hear, beyond the full force of that
locked door voices shouting new words that scrambled
against the long howls of sounds, sounds He knew.

They had tried to give him the gruel again.
Those wet lumps, coloured in only one shade of grey,
had seen no pepper, or tomato.

It was the gruel again that He could not take, swallow, lamb-like.
Comets of His spit and grain flew fast in a master’s face.
Though the food dripped like melted wax, his features stayed that
red, which, He had learnt, meant a dry slap, a booted kick.
There would be no more of that. A short break for the thin whipping tongue
of leather that kisses backs, and leaves rude lovebites.

He would swelter, sweat in heat and breathe too fast
when there was no air to be had.

The sea offered little, soothing rustles of consolation, what else?

It was the grind, and the not knowing He couldn’t take. And so He shouted.
All was legs, legs, arms. Beating on stone, arms bruised.

His penis knocking against His thigh, His knees, looking to themselves,
crashing to one another,
His hands tearing at the hair on His head, and coming back, gritty with
sand.

Sensibly, they had taken off the chains before they threw Him in.
Another batch was expected shortly, and essentials were running low.