tell them how we died
–ICC Witness #64
Many people will never testify before the international criminal court, or whatever its past and future equivalents might be. It is an impossible court, a court that can never hear the ghosts who flock to its chambers, hoping to hear their names, their stories. Ghosts who rustle through court documents looking for answers, seeking something beyond a justice forever denied. In this most haunted of courts, impossible stories are sought.
A chorus of voices:
I was walking to buy milk
I was playing with friends
I was washing the laundry
I was hopingpraying not to die
What is the collective name for the bombkilled? The governmentdisappeared? The policeslaughtered? The warerased? The developmentsacrificed? What is the collective name for the collateraldamaged? The lookedliketerrorists? The didnotrunfastenough? The livedinthewrongarea? The inthelineoffire? The borninthewrongskinbodyreligiontimegender?
And, still, I cannot stop thinking of love, of kindness, of care.
Four girls in a church: Four boys on a beach
(I can’t help thinking about the football-hating child, the book-loving child, found by a bomb a few pages before a story’s climactic end)
One asks friends for unimaginable things: to imagine with one, to provide words that travel in the fear-suffused spaces, in the death-saturated spaces.
Earlier today, I imagined a parent explaining to a child why another parent’s child has to die: “this is my gift to you,” a child-killing parent might say.
I wanted to believe that this child would say: “could we not have had a play date instead?” I wanted to believe in the myth of the peace-bearing child.
More than that: I wanted to believe in the myth of the parent who hears. To believe there might be a person with the ability to make power listen.
These are world-building killings. World-sustaining killings. World-imagining killings.
The “end” of this killing extends these imaginations—births their persistence, demands their use.
(Even now, death-makers learn new rhetorics, new bodily vernaculars, new ways to extend power, adopt new justifications to eliminate life)
(those were death-attracting bodies)
And so, one turns to prayer, to song
You died on the hum of a million voices raised in prayer
but I forget: it’s “tell them how we died”
They died walking, standing, sitting, running
They died terrified
They died having forgotten how to dream