The seven day song cycle
em = By Tony Smith
Sheila, eyes yellowed from grief,
looked into mine, glassy with shame
"I love you", she said
"I love you, you know."
Her uncle squatting propped
against the tree beside her
smiled his gap-toothed grin
"She loves everybody", he said
gesturing long-fingered at his waist.
Sheila is long dead and will be longer
killed by the white lady
survived only by syndrome babies
but I remember with some pride
the day she said "I love you".
She was of people who know so well
the word's true meaning
who measure it in sacrifice
and having borne its pain so long,
must understand the feeling.
She knew I could not love her back
knew I did not want her love
it was a ritual, a kind of act
demanding to be played
to its tragic end —
Today I sometimes dare to think
Sheila might be living still
had she but known before too late,
if, in even slight degree
someone civilised had shown to her —
the sober ways of hate.