When did you write your two poems Beaton?
I wrote Battlefield in 2019 and Sometimes in 2018.
Can you tell me a little bit more about why you wrote them?
For Battlefield, it came as kind of a reaction to the news of a boy I knew in our village who had hanged himself behind his family’s compound. Nobody ever knew why, but he had reminded me of a few others I knew who had decided to go by the rope, and another man who, tired of months of chronic illness, embraced death by throwing himself down an abandoned well several years back. I thought I could immortalize the boy’s struggle through the poem by touching on the devastating consequences of death on the psyche of those that stay behind and the hope that comes at the thought of an afterlife.
For Sometimes, it came as boredom and loneliness overtook my stay in a land far from home; a land where we were all struggling to fit in and where we will leave having failed to fit in, and the struggles that have marked our stay. And on similar platforms elsewhere, I have talked about the need for a creation of our own space, especially as African students in a place that appears not to understand us as much as we would want and therefore subjecting us to, at times, to ridicule. However, for me I wouldn’t say that there has ever been a struggle I can label as reaching crisis levels.
As I wrote the two poems, albeit at different times and inspired by different events, there were recurring images of souls that have found in death permanent relief, and at some point I remembered a policeman in Zomba (a city in the south in Malawi) who, having endured the sight of his chronically ill sister – they were the only ones remaining in their family - went missing one day in 2017, only to be found in a nearby forest later hanging from a tree. The sister collapsed on hearing the devastating news and never recovered; they were buried on the same day. I was at the time living in the neighbourhood where the man was found dead. It is in honour of such people that I believe it so happened that I had to write these two poems.
Do you have anything to say to anyone thinking about ending their lives in such a way?
To those who would be going through experiences that bring them closer to thoughts of liberating themselves through death, I might not have anything special to say aside from giving life one more chance when on the verge of giving up. They should focus on the positives of this life, and the people – even if there is just one – who will have to go through similar torture as they went through at the thought of their departure. They should know there is always a moment – there will always be – of redemption. It’s this hope that keeps us all going; we are all fighting our own battles, some of which we will never win, yet we still have to find a way out, alive. It’s not as easy as I say, but that’s how we all survive. And we must always share stories of our struggles with friends and family; those we trust, those who can understand, and even those we aren’t sure will understand. We can make them understand by sharing the pain. What’s more important? To us, everyone, everyday; we’ve got to keep checking on our friends and family and we should listen with our hearts and offer help that we would ourselves love to get if we were to be in similar situations. There are times we’ve joked about death and life, about suicide and eternity, about better alternatives yet what we tend to ignore is the psychological state of the suicidal, and how our very existence would be of much importance to their survival through such devastating moments.