What Could Have Happened

By Shailja Patel Shailja Patel

I doubt . . . this is where I find it extremely difficult . . . no government worth its salt plans to massacre its people. No. What could have happened is something went wrong when they were on the ground.

— Bethuel Kiplagat, Chair of  Kenya’s Truth,  Justice and Reconciliation
Commission, indicted for involvement in the 1984 Wagalla Massacre of
5,000 Somali Kenyans by the Kenyan government


a howl the wind stole


tongues torn out at roots


a swallowing of children
thrust under thorn bushes
choked on dust


a city of silence
risen out of desert
built of bodies

Source: Poetry (March 2014).

 Shailja  Patel


Shailja Patel represented Kenya at the London Olympics Poetry Parnassus. Her book Migritude (Kaya Press, 2010) was based on her one-woman show.

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Poems by Shailja Patel

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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