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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


by Kristin LaTour

South Sudanese rebels seized a strategic oil town last week, separating terrified residents by ethnicity before killing hundreds, the United Nations said. "We believe that at least 400 people were killed in Bentiu in the past week," said Toby Lanzer, the top United Nations official in South Sudan. Before the attacks, some rebel commanders broadcast messages on local radio warning certain groups to leave town. "Others broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community," the U.N. Mission in South Sudan said. At one hospital, Nuer men, women and children who refused to cheer the rebels were killed, according to the United Nations. --CNN, April 23, 2014

We killed them because it seemed the best thing
at that time, that time being one where both sides
were firing guns, in the context of having guns
that can shoot fast and accurately, bullets traveling
through walls and doors like jets puncturing clouds.

We killed so many because they were not stopping
not even to reload, just hurling fire and metal at us. Or
they were running away and we gave chase, falling on
their necks with our teeth. It wasn't until after we saw
they had no shoes, no weapons, but the blood was sweet.

We killed the women and children for aesthetic reasons.
Their genes were not the same as ours, not entirely, and
our skin is fairer than theirs. Their skin reminded us of stones
and the sky during a storm. Falling rocks and lightning
are dangers. The land seems brighter now without them.

We killed even the crops and livestock because it was a drought
and the fields were dusty, the leaves curling. No one would eat
such miserable gleanings. The chickens and pigs left foul
odors we could not stomach, and the rare cow was bloated
and called for milking. We didn't like the sound, so mournful.

We killed the songs and dances, the ceremonies and paintings
because they reminded us too much of our own when we were
far from our homes, sleeping in abandoned factories and keeping
watch over the night with just a small fire burning. We remembered
our wives and mothers voices and steps, how the priest blessed us.

Kristin LaTour's poems have appeared on The New Verse News and in journals like Witness, Fifth Wednesday, Adanna, dirtcakes, and Rock and Sling. She has three chapbooks, the most recent being Agoraphobia from Dancing Girl Press, 2013. She teaches at Joliet Jr. College and lives in Aurora, IL.