Blood for Blood
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Transition 10.4 (2001) 66-84



Blood for Blood

Yvette Christiansë

[The Art of William Kentridge]

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Baro. Baaa-ro!

The island is a boat on which I am sailing across the years to you, my boy. I sail so grandly that the world draws nearer to me, not I to it. Look how you come out of the sunset, from behind the sun, laughing. If I see myself, will I know that it is me? Oh, my boy, come, come, let your mother see her face again in you.

* * *

The warden says, Be insolent again and your door will be blocked up.

I say, Warden, a door is not made of stones.

Klap!

But I know. Blood for blood. And some days I look hard through the sun that jumps off the water and I remember other boats.

* * *

Baro, this is what your mother must do to keep all that is past from coming up and taking her mind. Those who have passed on know what it is to be kept from life. And here I am so close to dead that they believe I am theirs already. So I keep myself sharp. I keep the nails of my fingers clean so they can find no sleep in me.

Some days I look hard through the glare and I remember other boats. This is the task I have set myself, and it is a good one. I stare at the boats when they pull those big anchors up from the bottom of the sea. They have come for the whales. And some days I make my eyes reach further still, and I tell you, I see the anchors splash into the water off that coast, that Cape of Tears, Cape of Death, Cape of Struggles, whose contagion will spread up to the land. See how red the soil is. Let your mother teach you how to see such things.

Some days the sun turns gold. You can see this, just like me when I stare through all that light to the red soil. And then the earth opens up and men go down like creatures hungry for death. They pull back the earth like an old dress and there is waste piled upon waste. I can see this. I see the yellow waste and my throat [End Page 66] [Begin Page 68] stings and my eyes tear up with grit. Women sweep every day, trying to keep the thin lines of yellow sand from creeping beyond the doorstep or window ledge. One woman sings as she sweeps, and there are no stones to pave the roads, just a flat river of black soil that children and dogs run across, and I keep myself sharp here, or the dead will make me believe that I am going mad, and I hear them call me, and Baro, you alone may use my name.

And some days I weep nothing but tears, and there are no fancies, and the sea is the sea and the island is the island.

* * *

A pretty boy.

I tell Lys about you. She likes to hear about you. And so I say, You could see the flecks of sunset in his eyes when he laughed, and those flecks came from the oranges I was eating when he was conceived. I say, when the household was away, I took him through their rooms, where fine furniture sat upon feet of grime, and held him before their biggest mirror. It took a long time for him to see. I should have known. He hated looking into the mirror at first. He looked at everything reflected before him, but it was as if there was a blank space right in front of his eyes. There was no sweet baby Baro in those days. But when he finally did see himself, there was a little shock, a little start, a little light and those flecks came alive. He could never resist the mirror after that, and when I was out one day, chasing two of their scrawny cows...


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