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From: Vol.09 N.01 – A Poetics of Rights

If a Dirge Could Bring Back the Dead

by Peter Okonkwo
An elegy for the lost boys of the 1983 Sudan Civil War. 
Happily, they lived in their village
until the day they were
scattered and made to flee in fear,
Flee, from the sounds of bullet
and from the explosion of bombs.
They'd wished to stay with their families, 
but the severity of war had torn them apart.
Villages invaded and huts burnt down,
Cattles stolen and girls taken for slavery,
Innocent girls and women were raped to death, 
Fathers will never see their sons again.
Mothers painfully watched their 
daughters die from the Army's weapons.
The cloud was filled with dust
It was clear that something was amiss. 

Driven away from the land of honey,
to embark on a treacherous journey.
Trekking a thousand miles,
Surviving is hard when food is scarce.
Many had died due to starvation.
The cry of the little boy couldn't
change a thing.
His mother had been killed by a Leopard.
Torn apart by war, he yearns to 
see his home again.
His cry echoing the tranquil forest,
Dry skulls on the floor like cassava heaps,
Broken bones in the sand of the desert,
He panicked as he mused, 
Who is next to die?

Surviving the lonely night
Worn out, mentally drained, yet,
pleading the wild animals
not to feed on their flesh. 
Where are the lost boys of Sudan?
Why do they have to suffer from
what they don't know?
Is it a crime to be a Sudanese?
Why force me to serve your God?
They had no idea what they 
were being killed for.
A child who had only wished to live,
why should innocent boys who
knows nothing about race, 
religion, and oil, die of what 
they can't even define?

Thrust into a world of hopelessness,
welcomed by the scourging sun
of Africa's desert.
Starved to feed on leaves and mud,
extremely thirsty that they had no
option than to drink their urine.
One who hadn't experienced a war
wouldn't understand how brutal it is.
Trekking a thousand mile
across Africa's wilderness, 
From the village of Juol 
in Sudan to Shambe, 
crossing the River Nile to Pochala. 
And barefoot, arrived in Ethiopia.
Every joint has its own pain to offer.
Ethiopia offered them another dread 
like Sudan, they'd had to flee to Kenya.
Yet, life was brutal in 
Kakuma Refugee Camp.
My praise to those who survived,
but how about those who died
in the course of this treacherous journey?

Rest in peace dear boys of Sudan
but remember not to come to 
Africa if you'd had the chance 
to live a second time.
Always remember your pain 
in the wilderness, and how 
your government hunted you.
Remember how the Armies killed you,
And how bombs were released 
from the sky to devour you.
The audible cry of an orphan 
in the tranquil forest.
Over there, his friend's skull is lying 
on the desert's sand.
What have little kids done wrong 
to deserve this?
Shouldn't they be excluded from war?
Has their death brought peace 
to the land of Sudan?
How do those killers feel
shedding another man's blood?

Dear lost boys of Sudan,
I write you an elegy to express 
my agony of your story.
I've heard about your story 
from Benson Deng.
Alepho, who was once a part of you,
said it was a terrible journey.
So, I write to those souls who 
couldn't survive the brutal war,
To rest in peace, and sleep on.
To the souls that were lost and 
the people that were never found,
Rest on and on, but I do 
have a request from you,
Could you please tell Africa not 
to involve itself in a war again?
Could you please educate our leaders 
on the effect of war? 
Why are we even fighting when 
we all shall die someday?
Hello, lost boys of Sudan,
would you be able to read my elegy?

If a dirge could bring back the 
soul of the dead,
I would have been so excited. 
If a dirge could bring back the dead
I would have loved to hear your
own side of the story. 
I've got nothing to do other than 
pay you a solace by writing you
a mournful poem.
I felt your pain and your agony
brought me to tears.
No human being should have 
experienced your kind of death.
I wish I know your names I would 
have dedicated this piece of
poetry to you, to at least express 
my pain of your demise
I wish the new generation would 
learn from your agony,
And preach against war!

Sleep on, dear helpless boys.
Rest on and cuddle yourself in the dark.
For this is what becomes of a war,
That the innocent ones got to suffer it. 
Your story would stay in our hearts forever, 
We shall remember that something 
terrible happened to you on the soil of Africa. 
Rest in the bosom of your fate,
If only a dirge could wake the dead
I would have loved you to tell your own story, 
And tell the story of how you died.

Published: August 2022
Peter Okonkwo

was born in Akure, a city in the South-Western part of Nigeria. He is a freelance writer, editor, fatalist, literary critic, soon-to-be-novelist of Etean’s Destiny, and a certified orator from the Friendship Leadership Institute of Nigeria. Okonkwo is the author of four poetry collections: Ecstasy of the Dead; Fate, In the Dungeon of Doom; Whose Fault; Kismet or Impediment?, and Escape from the Unseen Dungeons. He is also the host of the P English Literature YouTube channel, where he reviews books and conducts interviews with authors around the world.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.