The Boy by Jude Cowan Montague

I am not a silent poet

Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam

He reads the chalked-up list; ‘banana tree’,
‘coconut’ and ‘flower’. Then he smiles.
He’s ten, so he’s the oldest in this class.

I wouldn’t have believed that once. But then,
one day when he was walking with his friend,
wearing his hat to keep the sun away

suddenly a giant grabbed his cap
to cover my lad’s face so he was blind
and could not dodge the blade that chopped his arm.

My son ran to the town to save his flesh.
The myth says spells are cast from body parts.
These rural paths twist traps for boys like him.

A thousand times a thousand times, and more
I’m happy for him to be safe at school.
If he had stayed with me he would be lost.

I miss his smile. He should be here with us.
But when he visits home, what food we make!

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