Little Swahili Boy

by Emylee Ballo


For the first time, I saw someone

in two places at once.

His elementary legs four yards ahead of his mind

running away from the bullying stick-throwers

his brain longed to name friends.


The little boy didn’t resemble the others—

dirtier than the path he ran on

smaller than the single-portion meal he didn’t receive

But more joyful than the songs he clapped to

in the third-world classroom.


I didn’t know his name

but to him, I was “Teacher.”

I only wanted to help aide his time left on earth—

Just have him sit on the side a spare moment

and if he waited with his water

he would receive a double portion.

His straightened thumb and head nod understood

what the language barrier couldn’t.

I was preparing a plate for him

solemnly grateful to be the one responsible

to fill his over-empty stomach.

But he was going to be satisfied.


His excitement curiously distracted him

after watching the others run and play.

His soul hungered for companionship over his bowl of rice

and with God-given energy, ran for their embrace—

but was only met with their greeting

of hurled rocks and twigs.

With a loving rush, I chased after the little Swahili boy

as if he were mine.

As though he were me.

They would stop hurting him, I thought,

if I could just get closer.

They wouldn’t hurt Teacher.


I watched his shining smile shrink

and trembling eyes lead his wobbling legs

out from their playground, onto the dusty road

escaping into a more tragic land.

He darted away from the violence—

The little child raced forward and didn’t look left or right;

he hadn’t learned that yet.


The man in the truck, just as the boy,

didn’t watch both sides of the road

but numbly accelerated, unaware.

A second passed before I heard the evil screech

bellow from the metal mouth

foaming with black exhaust

And watched it separate Little Swahili’s innocent life—

one that longed to give everything of the nothing he had.


The silence echoed as I did what he couldn’t—


Inhaling in quivers and puffing out silent whimpers

my wet cheeks faced his drying blood.

I only wanted to ease his time on earth—


Not watch it end.



For the first time, the little Swahili boy saw himself

in two places at once—

broken and messy on the road now dirtier than he

but fixed and fresh in His arms, ascending home.

The boy looked down to wave at Teacher, friends, school—

they were watching his half and half lie still on the road

but should have instead been seeing him fly.


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