#PoeticLicence: What’s in a name?

Rabbie Serumula

Rabbie Serumula

Published Dec 15, 2023


By Rabbie Serumula

Whenever I speak to my uncle who lives in Botswana, I always get the biggest sense of relief, no matter how dark or draining the stories he tells me. All of them are freeing to me. I am as particular with names and their meanings as I am with details in a story. And there is something liberating about knowing where you come from and exhuming the skeletons out of your family’s closet.

I knew my father had deep-seated pain, but I wasn't aware that his scars were as deep as the abyss. His ears were always ringing, he had gaping wounds with ethereal voices that persistently sang him songs of sorrow. He endured the pain of losing not just one, but two generations to the cold, unrelenting hands of murder.

And so I asked myself, what do you say to a man who has lost both his father and son to murder?

The last thing you say to him is that he should have known better than naming his son after his father.

Or that it was in order as well, his son was already marked with the omen in blood, he didn't need to have it in his aura as well.

But his scars never ceased to flow until that morning I found him lying motionless on his bathroom floor. May he continue resting in peace, he knew that time is pain. Pain is love. Love is life. Life is death. And so he was blessed with a natural one.

But it was in the streets of the City of Joburg, above which shadows always dare to dance on the edges of skyscrapers, where life became death for my grandfather who was killed in the line of duty. And my brother, he brought empty hands and his soul to a knife fight.

As far as my particularity with names and their meanings is concerned, the wounds on my father's soul and skin were engraved not only by the hands of fate but by the very name he bestowed upon his kin. Simon, a name passed down like an ancestral heirloom, became a torch of responsibility that seemed to attract tragedy as moths to flame.

A baker by trade, my brother bore the weight of a name written in the blood of our grandfather, a police officer who once walked the streets of Joburg with justice in his stride. Yet, fate cares little for the professions of men. In this unforgiving city, a city of dreams and nightmares, all three generations met their untimely end - blessed was my father with a natural one.

Blessed am I to have named my son LIGHT, unknowing as he is, estranged as he is, he has pulled me out of my abyss as I contemplate the cruel irony of life, and another question lingered in the air around me: Was it a cosmic twist that bound my grandfather and brother to a destiny of violence, or was it merely a dodgy dance of chance?

Saturday Star