Who Did You Leave Under The Sea Who do you imagine will haunt you?

Let me recount to you a history about an island 40 hectares in totality

One not characterised by the living sharks that surround its waterfront

But by the dying beasts on its shores that occupied and surrendered to it

In malnutrition, in typhoid, and in murder, all of them gone


Since we lay no claim to the history told about this time and place

We deny in our names the leisurely camping offered and performed

Amongst our skulls, clavicles, femurs, screams & intended dissolution


From New Year to Easter, Spring to Christmas, holidays and bones

Smeared together in an unholy bundle of desecration and disappearance

Reduced to deliberately miniature plaques next to ablution buildings
A big history turned into a fleeting moment of plunder and pillage
By Explorer turned Opportunist, Murderer turned Employer
He has evolved with the his-story he has rewritten for his fancy

He holds the demolition of an ancient people at the centre of his heart
His lust for wealth and the rage that follows, the locomotive
With which he rode them over the peninsula,
To the edge of the shark filled shores of a continent ending
To surrender them into the graveless abyss of the wide open sea

All of them without favour or fear
Those who had to forcefully boil the heads
Of loved one and acquaintances
To send off for study over the sea
To be seen by senseless men
That sought solitude in murderous solidarity
All of them are dead, all of them are gone

From a place still called Luderitz Bay
Instead of Nami#Nus or Okakoverua
Housing a stockpile of consent- less death

8 men today
8 women tomorrow
8 children the day after

All of them destined with mechanical precision
For somewhere over the sea
Or under it
If need be

Who did you leave in the waters
Surrounding Shark Island?
Who do you imagine will haunt you
If you took a deep dive
Into history
Into the sea?

Do you suppose
The sick and the elderly
The mained and the emaciated
As awaiting your arrival?
Perhaps it’s the shocked and the bewildered

Who did you leave under the sea?
Who did you leave in the waters
Surrounding Shark Island?
Did they have names and come from places?
Tell me if you threw them over the shore?

Or did they just fall into the many waters
Surrounding them

or did they jump?

Are the names too many to recall?
Or were they just numbers after all?
Can you recall the numbers, if at all?

Did they have faces?
Or were they just known through the lens
Of your gracelessness?

Who might they be?
Those under the sea?
Are they men or your own?
Or the men of other men?

Tell us who you left under the sea
Before we drown you in the rough waters of history
And make of you a nameless face
And a number not worth counting

Tell us who you left in the sea?
And why can’t you return there?

You have rewritten yesterday for today
In a bid to forget their names
To further desecrate already dead faces
in dead places
Recounted in dead histories

Tell me
Tell them
Tell us!
who exiled you from the land into the sea!

It must be us!

You will need to give us some time to let our bones turn into barrier-reefs
And be swept into eternity by the rough tides of the Benguela
And become permanent features in a place you dare not go
A place are not welcome anymore,
For its populated by us
Those—under the sea
Those swimming in the dirty waters of his-story

You know who you left under the sea
And what haunts you
What awaits you
Which names call out for you

“Come, come, come, into the sea”
“Come, come, come, under the sea”

You know which faces!
You can recall the numbers!

You still see their features
And eat from their stolen riches

Above on the land, like statues you are
Under the sea, like barrier reefs we are

Where you left us, all of us
Under the Sea
Around Shark Island

And you above it

Keith Vries is a Namibian poet, writer, and performer. For the past decade he has performed poetry and has been part of productions that seek to create awareness about and around the 1904-1908 genocide that took place in Namibia during the Second Reich. As a genocide activist his works and writings have been staged and featured in Namibia, Tanzania, Cameroon, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Cover Image: Ayub Jauro on Pexels.