“The crime that is latent in us we must inflict on ourselves.”
J.M. Coetzee: Waiting for the Barbarians.

The executioner works the night
Keen sharp immediate, he chants,
honing his blade, intent on mercy.


The interrogator has done his work.
A subtle man, he extracts truth
like a midwife; and for that relief
he is forgiven: the offender
wanted to surrender, it was his
choice, his God-given right.


He is led now into the open,
shackled steps tugging his ankles.

A delicate hand has carved a word
into his brow, incisive letters
reaching into his mind, grasping

the story scrolled inside his body.
Long fingers have probed and teased,
pulling it out, intestinal.

Our gentle offender is pilloried
turbanned with his life exposed
wrapped around his streaming brow.
Sun beats down on his revelation.

He tricked me, inflicted me
upon myself until I came
to this place, barely breathing.

He worked on me relentlessly
until I unfurled, a cipher filling
with the need to forgive,
to clothe myself and walk again
into the open, a human being;
to say love is the strongest need.


The interrogator joins
with the executioner,
legs knifing, kicking shins,
jig-a-jig, the dance of life.