Death Row, Luzeera Jail
What do they spell, the fairy lights
draping the yard outside the cells?
A daily Christmas? Unwrapping the surprises
before dawn? Another day isn't, for everyone,
something to take for granted. But by the time
the sun is up, what is there left
but sitting in the litter? The new Rolex
tells you tomorrow is already planned
(and not by you). Now wake the elders,
who have ten years seniority or twenty here
in this cramped living room; but they
won't help. They have their fill of presents.
They wink back, knowingly, from time to time
at all the little glass bulbs that won't grow
into flowers. But still: on Christmas night
all Christians sing. Guests are received with smiles
and reassured: don't worry, it isn't news
that's welcome here. You needn't tell us
anything but what we know, what the lights spell:
a guest as always, as already, here
on the damp ammoniac floor.
in Headwaters by Rowan Williams
[Luzeera Jail is the main prison in Kampala, Uganda]