Danielle McLaughlin : in memoriam.

a tribute to Danielle McLaughlin, who was raped & murdered in South Goa on Tuesday, in the wake of Holi, the festival of colours that celebrates aliveness & love.

Danielle’s story is yet another tragedy in our seemingly endless flow of women violated, desecrated, murdered. another Jyoti Singh. another Lucia Perez. the list goes on.
this time it feels very close to home. i know the land where Danielle took her last steps very well. i have lived and loved there. mourned my mother and scattered her ashes in that patch of ocean. and like many these past days, i am moved to words, sadly aware, that even as i write them, somewhere else there is another Danielle, another Jyoti, another Lucia living through the same nightmare.

dear Danielle,

when you & i met, already you were no more,
and the world was bursting at the seams
with everything you were & would have been,
if your young life had not been ripped away from you
on that violating, murderous night.

had we met, you & i,
i know i would have admired
your sylphan beauty & flowing hair
turning the setting sun into vibrant dark flame
as it kissed your soft head-
my eyes fall into yours,
a smiled is shared
woman to woman,
human to human,
my old soul a little stunned with wonderment
at the sheer aliveness of you;
you walk past my slow, ocean-filled steps
& now away from me, into the warm sea-breeze
laughing across your open face.

what can i say to you now ?
that i know, in my breathing heart,
how the old earth on which you exhaled your last,
welcomed you in her arms, sobbing & gasping,
how the aged forests embraced you as you ebbed away,
deep into the ground,
dissolved into thick salty air & the ocean’s singsong,
into thousands of star upon star looking down at you,
screaming, unheard,
until they too, welcomed your unworded self,
and now they whisper you back, night after night.

i could have been you, Danielle,
or i could have been her, or her, or her,
as this old dance of desecration
continues to tear itself apart into the flesh of women
& the dying lives of women.

now you have become inhale & starshine,
the full moon’s smile as she treads lightly over water,
forest-song & the velvet flight of birds at dusk-
the nighttime scent of frangipani.
but your deep bleeding pain…she rests with us, the living,
and we will look after her, Danielle.

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