We praise the man who,
though he held the match between
his finger and his thumb,
beheld the terror of its tiny drop of phosphorus,
its brown and globoid smoothness
like a charred and tiny skull
and so returned it to its box.

So too, we hail the youth who,
though he took his panga on the march,
perceived it odd within his fist
when there was neither scrub
nor firewood to be felled,
so laid it down.

An acclamation for the man who,
though he saw the woman running, clothing torn,
and though he lusted,
saw his mother in her youth,
restrained his colleagues
and withdrew.

We pay our homage to the man who,
though his heart was like a stone
and though he took a stone to cast,
could feel its hardness in the softness of his palm
and grasped the brittleness of bone,
so let it drop.

We laud the man who,
though he snatched to scrutinise
the passenger’s I.D.,
saw not the name – instead, the face –
and slid it back
as any friend might slide his hand to shake a friend’s.

And to the rest of us,
a blessing:
may you never have to be that man,
but if you have to,
BE!

© stephen partington

This poem was written as a reminder that while the post-election violence of early 2008 was a great tragedy, most Kenyans did not actively participate in the atrocities, despite many international media reports to the contrary.  It is an accessible and partially traditional celebration of our moral courage. This poem (among others) is featured in Stephen’s book ‘How to Euthanise a Cactus