Swapping Kaia

Fly-bitten buttocks quiver in the shantytown shit shack,

all the kaia men from up and down the street crouch

ham sandwich fisted round Rihanna news clippings, cowering from percussive

bullet fire rattling with the name of the murdered President.

Durban, the elder, says “cum it dry, boys… cum it dry… save your good stuff

for your wives and times beyond these killing nights.”

Some boys sneak round to watch the neighbouring women’s wetroom,

drooling over washed thighs that drip with suds and sweat,

shining through the windows. Tonight the men are swapping kaia

before the soldiers come, before they’re forced guns raised to split,

to fuck their mothers, their daughters, their sons, in exchange for their lives.

House to house, blade to flesh, all old hatreds burned and confessed.

Tonight the men are swapping kaia for when the soldiers come.

For when the soldiers come…

(First published in The Lake, 2015.)