On February 17, 2008, a well-armed group of thugs stormed the small river town of Bartica along the Essequibo River in Guyana and killed 12 people, including three police officers.
This followed the killing of 11 men, women and children in the town of Lusignan on January 26, 2008.
The brutal and senseless nature of the cold-blooded murders stunned the entire Caribbean region.
About 12 years ago, I had travelled up the Essequibo on an overloaded boat with Duke (now Justice) Pollard, and old man Thompson of Barbados to spend a weekend at Bartica. I always speak of the stark contrast between daytime Bartica and night-time Bartica. The killings there brought this out:
River city once came alive
from Friday dusk to Sunday dusk
Tonight they sleep
no, sprinkled gold,
flees the open pyre
We once tied our fears
like infected animals
to the backyard mango tree
and shot them in the head
Tonight they run free
with noisy hoofs -
Pus and blood
painting the loose and fickle clay
Missing you, river city, is not the best way
to describe our pain
Plucked from Heaven
is more like it
We are taken from each other
Souls en route to different futures now
They stole our sleep
Between Mash and Mash
From dusk to dusk
They stole our dreams
What mischief of Paradise has this been
that our love is torn from us by guns?
By muzzles to our heads
By deafening hatreds?
The boatman waits for us to board
But we never came
And he never left
Is this Bartica Dream our endless nightmare?