Theatre of Hearts

by Elizabeth Trew

Hamilton Naki, 1926 – 2005

Remember Hamilton
who rose from gardener
to cleaner of animal cages
to teacher-with-no-training of students and physicians
to black laboratory assistant of Christiaan
the white heart surgeon.

Technically, Hamilton is a better surgeon than I am.
Some operations I cannot do.
Confined to a back room
he removes, inserts and stitches livers
jugulars and hearts into the flesh of a giraffe
and many dogs and pigs:
Animals Only.
See him cross the courtyard of Groote Schuur.
He carries a box of hearts for his surgeon
and enters a lift:
Non-Whites Only.
Today in the Christiaan Barnard hospital
a girl in the ward of damaged hearts calls:
Mamy! Mamy!
And I listen to the voice of the black doctor
back from theatre
moving bed-to-bed on his rounds
to hear each desolate
human heart.


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