smiling at the pool
The transcriber speaks

The Archbishop chairs the first session

by Ingrid de Kok

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
April 1996. East London, South Africa

On the first day
after a few hours of testimony
the Archbishop wept.
He put his grey head
on the long table
of papers and protocols
and he wept.

The national
and international cameramen
filmed his weeping,
his misted glasses,
his sobbing shoulders,
the call for a recess.

It doesn’t matter what you thought
of the Archbishop before or after,
of the settlement, the commission,
or what the anthropologists flying in
from less studied crimes and sorrows
said about the discourse,
or how many doctorates,
books, and installations followed,
or even if you think this poem
simplifies, lionizes
romanticizes, mystifies.

There was a long table, starched purple vestment
and after a few hours of testimony,
the Archbishop, chair of the commission,
laid down his head, and wept.

That’s how it began.