"The Archbishop chairs the first session"
This poem by Ingrid de Kok
is part of a cycle of poems dealing with South Africa's Truth and Reconcilliation Commission. I found it to be powerful, as have people to whom I have shown it.
On the first day
after a few hours of testimony
the Archbishop wept.
He put his grey head
on the long table
of papers and protocols
and he wept.
and international cameramen
filmed his weeping,
his misted glasses,
his sobbing shoulders,
the call for a recess.
It doesn't matter what you thought
of the Archbishop before or after,
of the settlement, the commission,
or what the anthropologists flying in
from less studied crimes and sorrows
said about the discourse,
or how many doctorates,
books and installations followed,
or even if you think this poem
There was a long table, starched purple vestment
and after a few hours of testimony,
the Archbishop, chair of the commission,
laid down his head, and wept.
That's how it began.
From Terrestrial Things