Anthony Egan

In Issue 5 on January 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm

1 May 1989: no easy walk

(This poem is dedicated to the memory of
Dr David Webster, anthropologist, human rights
activist and victim of a state death squad,
Mayday 1989)


A short walk
around the block
(no easy walk)
an anonymous car
very public gunshots
broken body and
blood on a Jo’burg suburban street.

A private commemoration
“ stay in the struggle and
he stays with you”
(like Z – he lives)

A public funeral for
a very human man:
he wears his football scarf
the people’s flag – his flag – is draped
on his coffin
thousands walk
(no easy walk – the system is watching)
to the graveside.

They sing “Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika”
( Nkosi Sikelel’iDavid)
hamba kahle comrade!
and the grave is filled.

(I never met him. I read his human rights writings.  I admire him.  A few friends of mine attended his funeral service.)

Six months later
on Wits University campus for research
in the William Cullen library
I pick up a book
inside is his name;
students walk past Great Hall
his face printed in cotton on their chests:
being theological
I think of resurrection.


Anthony Egan is a South African priest based in Johannesburg. A Jesuit, he combines pastoral and academic work in a number of places. He has written and published mostly in the academic areas of South African History and Christian Ethics, and has been reviewing books for various newspapers and academic journals since 1984.

  1. Poignant! This poem spoke to me with piercing immediacy. I could relate on many levels, having grown up in South Africa and studied at Wits University (I’ve spent many hours in the William Cullen Library). Thank you!

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