By: Benedita Mayanda Zalabantu

He lost his life at the age of four.

Too young to understand how the world works.
Too young to even remember me.
It wasn’t his time to go.
They know, I know.

It hurts. I’m hurt. I’ve been hurt.

I have held memories of you sitting on my lap, laughing.
I have held memories of you crying, of me trying to sing in English.
I have held memories of the times you started crawling.
I was excited. I was very excited.

Two months before November 29, shots were fired.
I saw your mom today, and that’s how I know you’ve left this world.
I’m sorry.
I asked your mom again and again where you were.
I was excited.
And she just looked at me.
I felt selfish.

“Where’s Samuel,” I turn to my mom. “Can you ask where Samuel is?”.
I was too blind to notice how dead you looked outside, I was too foolish to realize that you were suffering.
I am sorry.

“Where’s Samuel” I asked for the fourth time.
You started crying.
I am sorry.

I left because mama told me to.
I remember looking at you at the door while tears crawled out of your eyes, and found their way to your lap.
I saw.
“Samuel died two months ago”, she said.
“You are lying.”
He was only four Mama.
He was only four.

Why would someone shoot at a child?
Two shots were fired that took this child away.
I didn’t know how to cope with this, so I started writing.
I am crying.
I was crying.
I’m still crying.

He was only four.
I haven’t seen him since his first birthday.
I will never see him again,
I will never get to celebrate his birthday.

“He was only four, mama, why would they shoot a four-year-old?”
“He never learned to say my name correctly, I never got to see him walking, mama.”

I wrote.
I cried.
I am crying.
I’ve been crying. I am sorry.

I apologize for being foolish; I am sorry for not knowing any better; I am sorry for not being there.
Shots were fired that took someone’s child away, it stripped me from the role of being an aunt.
I hate you, world.
I hate you for taking someone’s child away. I hate you for being cruel.
Hate you for making me cry while I write this poem in anger.
Hate you for not warning me.

But, I am sorry.

Benedita Mayanda Zalabantu lives in Portland, Maine and is 17 years old. In her free time she enjoys watching documentaries which have led to her interest in pursuing a career in law. Benedita also speaks four different languages (Portuguese, Lingala, French and English).