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

Wa
gal
la

a howl the wind stole

Wa
ga
lla

tongues torn out at roots

wagallawagallawagallawa

a swallowing of children
thrust under thorn bushes
choked on dust

Wagalla

a city of silence
risen out of desert
built of bodies

Source: Poetry (March 2014).

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2014
 Shailja  Patel

Biography

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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