20:10:20 Massacre (an anonymous order)

by Kelvin Kellman


[Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the “Topical” series, with each piece solely submitted to and chosen by the Final Reader Pietra Dunmore.]


Between heaven and earth, lagoon and dry land,
no greater sting had I grieved before today, when
Lagos, soaked up in blood, wept for her young.
It began with demands. For rights, for space, air;
for living in one’s country without dread.
A fear of a lie, a fear of bullets, a fear of death,
in the hands of folks saddled with the duty of protecting.
In lieu however, they besieged us with guns and bullets.
And that mantra, spewed out of their crooked tongues:
I will kill you and nothing will happen! We assembled with
requests, to be heard, asking to live as humans and not game.
But we forget, the general in his labyrinth recognizes nothing
in the least human, only cattle. Before the soldiers, they cut off
the lights, cut off the cameras, and then killed the billboard.
And in a trice, men in olive green jumped out of trucks and opened fire.
Over 60 people perished today. Lucy died with half her head missing for
asking a better country. Men: fathers, brothers, with chests and guts
blown open, laid shoulder to shoulder singing the national anthem
until they expired. The Governor pleads innocence.
The command, he says, are forces beyond his direct control.
The army snatched away bodies but denies complicity.
The president, still silent, received an emir in his province
with fanfare. Leaving us asking: who gave the order?


Kelvin Kellman writes from Nigeria. He’s had works featured or forthcoming in Green Briar Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Hawaii Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Solstice Literary Magazine, and elsewhere.


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “20:10:20 Massacre”?

On the 20th of October, 2020, youths in Nigeria who have never seen a country work, as the country has an enduring history of corruption, bad governance, mortal extortion and arrogation of power by a rogue element of the police, took to the streets in peaceful protest demanding better governance and police reform. The government in response, sent soldiers to open fire on the protesters. Scores of youths had their lives snuffed out and many were left lethally injured.

Being part of the protesters, to say that I am livid does not about cover how I feel on account of the unsavoury turn of events; how the degenerate civilian government led by a former general to whom dialogue is alien, responded with bullets to youths demanding accountability. More so, I had comrades lose their lives in the most gruesome manner. It could have easily been me who got hit that night. It is my hope that with this poem, which I wrote that very night and edited the following day, I’ll find some form of closure, and that the departed wherever their spirits lead, know that they did not die in vain. I hope also that this poem expresses the wanton devilry exhibited by the current Nigerian government. Because even now, days after that bloodbath, the president has refused to address the shooting.


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