[wpaudio url=”/audio/march11/delabre.mp3″ text=”listen to this poem” dl=”0″]
I traveled to Cape Town once.
With a small crowd of camera-wielding strangers,
I took a tour of the military seat
And of the unyielding Darkness.

Years ago,
When the Dutch ruled South Africa,
And more brutality than even today
Reigned supreme,
Prisoners were detained there.

We stood in a massive stone room
With a vaulted ceiling
And no windows.

The guide stood in the sunlit doorway,
Flashed a bright smile
Incongruous with the surroundings,
And explained:

Prisoners stood in this room
Packed so tightly
They could not sit
Many had been beaten first
And stood, bloodied, with broken limbs
They ate where they stood
They shat where they stood
They wept where they stood
They cursed god where they stood
They died where they stood
They stood shoulder to shoulder with the dead
Sometimes for weeks on end
In the Darkness

And to prove his point,
The guide exited the sunlit doorway,
Slammed the door shut behind him,
And bolted the lock.

The tourists and I stood
In silence,
Their cameras flaccid in the Darkness.

There were no cracks
From which light could creep in.
It was a Darkness that
Clutched at your lungs, that
Settled into the tiny corners of your mind.

I started suffocating
Swept away in the Darkness
By the standing.
Just standing.
Forever standing.