Human Rights Poem (55): In Detention

comments 34
freedom / human rights poem / justice
christopher van wyk

Christopher van Wyk

In Detention, by Christopher van Wyk

He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He hanged himself
He slipped on a piece of soap while washing
He fell from the ninth floor
He hanged himself while washing
He slipped from the ninth floor
He hung from the ninth floor
He slipped on the ninth floor while washing
He fell from a piece of soap while slipping
He hung from the ninth floor
He washed from the ninth floor while slipping
He hung from a piece of soap while washing.

34 Comments

  1. Carol McCullar says

    You are right- it may be “kak” it may be “shit” because that is what you see. However I do not see any of that. I see the fallen heroes Chris is writing about. Men who fell from prison cells on the ninth floor at John Voster square- through iron bars – to their deaths. I see the men who slipped on a piece of soap and died?? men who previously dodged bullets now dying deaths no one can explain!!I see Chris – bringing the balm of Gilead to soothe our wounds through poetry and art! Not only for me a black person, but for all who would read and be healed!!I am sitting here in Minneapolis- far away from home- I am comforted by the beauty of my friend Chris!!Heita da Chris!!Hoezit Boet?

  2. for me I see veterans who SAs freedom owes its existence from their blood,mavens who art of poetry is so profound because of them,vertousos who we draw our courses of life from thier silluette,I see wizzes who were true to what they followed,and I respect Chris for mapping that out for young fellows like myself who would not live without poetry. but to those who say this sculpture is a kaka they lack the sixth sense and kaka is the marrow of their skull.

    • This poem is understandable if you have read about south African history.This are all the excuses that police used to make when they have killed a prisoner.They knew that families of these prisoners wouldn’t know the way the prisoners died.It is very easily read,but its very difficult to understand it.To all those who are still going to do this:read the book called cry freedom and you will clearly understand.

  3. for me I see veterans whose SAs freedom owes its existence from their blood,mavens whom art of poetry is so profound because of them,vertousos whom we draw our courses of life from thier silluette,I see wizzes whom were true to what they followed,and I respect Chris for mapping that out for young fellows like myself who would not live without poetry. but to those who say this sculpture is a kaka they lack the sixth sense and kaka is the marrow of their skull.

  4. Dorothy says

    I think this was a beautiful poem, which explores many different themes.
    The authors emotion is evident, it brings a tear to my eyes.
    For some it may be difficult to comprehend, however once you see the true meaning of this poem, its truly inspirational.

  5. Cindy says

    You dont like the poem because you dont know that its about the way police would manipulate the truth to justify their sins…but then again…with a brain your size, whou would expect you to understand this.

  6. Jenny says

    Uhh…it’s about the excuses wardens gave to explain away the injuries that people in their custody had. (From brutality, see?)

    That said…I agree with the first anoymous. It’s just prose with line breaks.

  7. I heard that poem read out at University during the time in South Africa’s history when people were detained without trial. That’s what the police said about detainees who died in prison. Chris’s poem captures brilliantly the chilling lies that were told to cover up the police brutality.

  8. Planet Fitness =P says

    Naai jaaas bt i need answers for my English questions, i dot feel like reading a suuuuper long ass analysis, Carol McCullar, can u please sprinkle more wisdom over this site please =) shot ;) Its not shit, its what its yourshit comments anoymous fags (Oo,)

  9. Carol McCullar says

    Dear Planet Fitness- Like everyone else in the whole world- I am no exception- I do not have all the answers. I do not know much about this site- and as everybody else- I am sure we were merely browsing and stumbled upon this site. I know Christ peronally and I have jut read his memoir Shirley, Goodness and Mercy- it is a wonderful – absolutely wonderful book that so beautifully describes the lives we live as people of colour and even just generally South Africans. Like this poem- he paints a picture- a very vivid picture of South African life. But let add this- it is not what is different about us that draws us closer as South Africans- it is what is common about us- that draws us closer. Comments about this peom being shit and all that stuff- separates- while comments about its beauty and relevance draws us closer.
    On another site- about Afrikaans poems- I also left a comment. The poem is entitled- Op die Hoeveld. My commnet was- Hoe verlang tog nie nou na die hoeveld- waar dit lekker warm is en die suurmel op my wag…. waar die son heerlik skyn en die maroelas ryp op die aardle le en wag op my….
    Pleks van maroelas en sonskyn sit ek nou hier in hierdie yskoue vreemdel land en verkluim- stuur tog vir my koeksister! Op ‘n ander gellentheid her weer kommentaar gelewer op ‘n ander gedig- Slaap- een van my gunsteling gedigte- D F Malherbe- ‘n gedig wat hy geskryf toe sy dogtertjie op sterfte le- Wat is die slaap ? “n wonder soete ding, sag op haar blou oe daal die vaak….
    I see the beauty in all South Africans- wherever there is beauty- I deliberately seek for the beauty in all.
    Recently- just after I read Chris’ book I read Don Mattera’s book memory is the weapon and then I read Arch Bishop Desmon Tutu’s book For Goodness sake…… equally endearing and a blessing to me…. I miss home… I miss my people……so I read about everybody including what you have to say. It does me good to hear what this generation has to say. Stay well and keep on questioning things.

  10. jackson says

    the poem is sample, it just basing in the past police brutaliy and those who were dying in police detention. Hangin prisoner and handout the confusion excuss.

  11. I'll Go With 'Guest' says

    I thought it was about how the media in South Africa during that apartheid didn’t want people to know the truth. The poet only wanted to show us how ridiculous the media stories sounded if we pay attention to them and add 2+2 to the stories they published about deaths. He wanted to show how more and more ridiculous each and every media story got.

  12. Dr James Anderson phD.Sc Dip.Ed says

    Bob, you are mentally retarded and need medical assistance. Call me, 555-324

  13. lucia says

    u no wat its poems lik this that mak us to raly embrace the freedom that we hav cause now we have the rigth to found out the truth about wat realy hapnd to our brothers who went to jail en dead in there those polices wer just making unreanable excs just so they cn cover up what they did big up to mr van wyk,chirs

    • You really shouldn’t be reading such literature with your grammar in the condition it is. Go multiply somewhere else, you filthy insect!

  14. JOJO says

    WONDERFUL POEM AS IT WERE. TALKING ABOUT THE CRUELTY OF POLICE DETAILS DURING THEN.THEY WERE JUST FINDING A VERY SILLY EXPLANATION TO THE CAUSE OF DEATH OF THE DETAINEES THAT THEY HAD CAUSED THEMSELVES.THEY THOUGHT THAT THE PUBLIC WOULD NOT KNOW THE REAL TRUTH. WHAT A VERY GOOD POEM. KEEP IT UP CHRIS.

  15. bayar laattoe says

    anon: the poem was mentioned by prof j. jansen at the fifth annual memorial lecture of imam abdullah haron held at the commnuity house in salt river.

  16. Katlego Gr 12 says

    Many may think this is a ‘kak’, poem but i disagree.The ridiculousness of the poem puts emphasis on the the ridiculous excuses that were made regarding the deaths of the prisoners. When the different deaths are mixed together it shows how the excuses were recited by the prison wards like a song with no thought put into the excuses. it emphasizes how often the deaths happened and how the prison wards had little regard for the lives of the prisoners.

  17. Pingback: Human Rights Poem (55): In Detention | Castlemaine Vigil in Recognition of Aboriginal Sovereignty & in Solidarity with Refugees

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