I Heard Him Die – Poem by Lawrence Mduduzi Ndlovu

This morning
It came
To me;
I remember
I remember
The dead body,
I remember even
The sound of
His voice,
As he wept
Into the night.
I remember!

That winter night
Someone shook our locked gates,
It Wasn’t the usual
Sound of guns
that often thundered
into the night,
it was a man,
whose cries woke
even the sleep-loving toddler.

“There’s a man shouting!
There’s a man crying!”
“Be quiet”
they said,
“Be still”
they chided,
“These are dangerous times”
I heard them say.
Thugs too are fond
Of the concealing character
of a cold and hostile night,
the story of a township night,
And the violence of
Our times carried
One huge lesson;
You hear some

Turn off your Lights
Sit still
Deadly still.
That frightful night
His cries were harrowing,
All night long,
He cried for help,
All freezing night,
We wouldn’t open
Our doors,

We in our beds
were frozen
By our own fear.
He wept,
He shouted
Until the pitch
of his voice

Lost its steady sound,
As each minute past,
His voice became
and lower,
and lower,

That winter morning
His young naked body
On Jabulani Lane
Lay dead.

It was not that he had fallen
Into the hands of robbers,
Who took everything from him,
Leaving him naked,
It was the elements of winter,
That invaded his warmth,
And as his cries lowered,
his heat lowered,
Until the cold silence of death,
Took the heat of his life away.

Guilt visited my people that morning,
When their eyes fell
Upon the now silent night-screamer.
Omission was their sin;
what they failed to do
was to open their doors.

The real cold night
is when humanity
behaves against
its very own condition;
when it has to silence
from within itself
the cries of the other
that calls to it for help.
I know not the moment
When fear entered humanity;
That even reaching out
Has become a sacrifice.
His own returned reverently
On the day
of his interment,
With his body
now robed with dignity,
To the place
where their own
Breathed last,
I heard them say
to his soul;
“Come with us.
Come home.
Come to those who even
In death’s dark night
Would heed your cries.”
They called him by name.
At last he found a door
That wasn’t afraid to open.
I heard you die that night,
That cold dark night.
I saw you dead that morning,
That frosty frightful morning.
And although a child I was,
I knew with certainty,
That humanity
was never created to fear,
Nor be complacent
At the sound of suffering.

© Lawrence Mduduzi Ndlovu, Johannesburg South Africa

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