Requiem for Steve Biko
Most nights he hides his wounds
In blue-black silence that veils
The truth, conceals the fact
That he is captured, denies the world
Beyond his bruising shadow. But once a month,
Going on eight times, his dark skin is slashed
By white bars. Unseen, the mocking moon
Reveals him with its light.
From where he lies, blood kin
To the killing floor, he cannot hear
The wind, feel the land, smell the rain.
His eyes and mind alone are free; inert,
He roams the banned horizon, visits his home,
Starts an I.V., makes love to a burning sunset.
His raw cell cries
For boundless life, free
From those that sculpt
His flesh. As they try
To rearrange him
To match their meager purpose,
He escapes to plan his greatest work.
Through the darkness
Of each day, he pares the hate
From stranger's lips, rids
Women's hearts of fear, cures
The hopelessness of men, removes
Veneers of colored flesh.
Now, turned past the telling moon, he
Lies in broken peace, his fingers
Inexplicably unharmed. While those
Who would possess him
Doze in fitful sleep, he slips
Their artificial laws, passes
Pale facades of steel, leaves them waking
To another's cry.
Phillip D. Bertram, MD, FACP
Dr. Bertram, a Governor Emeritus of the Tennessee Chapter, ACP/ASIM is a gastroenterologist in fulltime clinical practice in Cookeville, Tennessee.
Bantu Stephen Biko was born in South Africa 18 December 46. A sometime medical student, he was censured by the apartheid government and repeatedly arrested because of his efforts to organize black students. He was the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. Following a severe beating while in police custody, he died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage on 12 September 1977. His death generated international protest and contributed to the downfall of South Africa's white supremacist regime.