During World War II, the mining town of Shinkolobwe was dropped from maps of the Belgian Congo to protect the secrecy of its uranium ore. This rock would later supply most of the raw materials for the world’s first atomic bombs.
I. How to erase a place? The Congolese government tried burning. The column of smoke was visible for miles for days. Did the miners dance around the burning town? Did they smear their skin with the soot, the sweat, the evidence of toil – the evidence of sin – their only inheritance from forbears who bit the flesh which soiled the hearts of men so that, for a piece of cloth, a man sold his kin? Was it the heat from the pit of that fruit which set their limbs to kindling? II. The smouldering tree stumps were left sticking out of the ground like blunted arms – the handless ones – limbs could no longer beg but could amuse smoking in long draws the way cut stumps which still suck the earth for water point upwards to accuse the sky which supplied the awful oxygen both for breathing and for burning.
the men emerge from the mud as mud but move as gods stepping lightly only occasionally dropping their bodies to the ground to hear the rocks breathe
Lauren Delapenha recently completed a Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. She is the recipient of the 2019 Grindstone Literary International Poetry Prize, as well as the joint winner of the 2018 Helen Zell and Jamaica Poet Laureate Young Writer’s Prize for Poetry. She currently lives in Jamaica, where she works as an English tutor and writing coach.