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Counting our Dead

You grip my hand.

“Tell me the names of Tante Eva’s children.”

I stumble on the fifth. “I forget the rest.”

I hear the edge in my voice.

At night, I weep the dry tears of guilt.

Tomorrow, we’ll name the names.

Tomorrow, we’ll count the dead.

We name the old ones.

Fijabi, Punsin, George.

Together, we make their pattern.

Were they slaves?

“Nah man, generation or two after that”

Naming their names gives them life.

Last night, you got up to pee,

rocking, unstable, night confused.

“My brother Evans. Is he dead?

“Yes, he died of cancer and, yes,

he had three children.

I hold the bottle for you. In the dark,

your eyes are alien with morphine.

You whisper, breath dry and sour,

“But I need to know their names -”

You count the dead, marking your place

in the litany.

Counting our Dead: Text
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