Alone

She had thrown him there
All nine years of him
Naked and tied up and crying
In the middle of the road,
In the middle of the day,
In scorching sun,
In scathing shame,
In sight of sittersby
In slits and windows
Throughout the street.

I had puked that day.
I was nine years too.
He had called me names,
Kept me out of games
And spit on me.
I’d written tortures for him
In the back of a book
In the back of a class,
In anger full,
In fancy rich,
In revenge dark.
But not like this.
I had not written this.
I could not have written this.

The sittersby watched on.
They did not puke.
They sat, complicit,
As he called out to them,
One by onlooking one,
After calling out to his mother.
They gave him the same response.
What stayed their hands and feet
That didn’t stay their eyes and ears?
Some leash of social propriety?
No one interferes with mothers
Disciplining children.
It’s not their place.

He learned to keep quiet
That day and every day since.
He speaks when spoken to.
Sometimes not even then.
The sittersby now say
He will return it. The same way.
What will they do that day?
When child disciplines mother?
His silence unsettles them.
They walk on dung-cakes.
They give him gifts,
Talk nicely to him,
Keep him in good humour.
And every other day
They swear the day is coming.
His madness is peaking.
A thirty year old with no cows,
No wife, no children, no friends.
They don’t get him. They can’t.
They just wait.

I don’t think he will do it.
He won’t throw his mother out.
She is his hostage, after all.
Sittersby sit by, be nice to him,
Because they fear the act.
The threat is stronger, far stronger
Than the execution of it.
If he does do it, to his mother,
In front of his house,
In front of their eyes,
In cold violence,
In cruel silence,
In caged vengeance,
Won’t the spell break?
Won’t they pounce on him
Like they pounced on those
Cow-beaters and wife-cheaters?
He reigns supreme now.
He keeps her at home.
He keeps her well fed.
He keeps her afraid.
For three hours of shame
All those years ago,
He inflicts the same
Without doing a thing.

The mother wailed often
Under the tamarind tree.
She wishes she were dead.
That he didn’t call the doctor
Every time she tried to end it.

“He’ll be free, when I’m free.
For twenty-one years,
For each passing day,
He has been stuck alone
Naked and tied up and crying.”