100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 51-60

Inspired by the quiet homage to the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that Wangechi Mutu started posting on social media on April 6, I decided to respond. I offer these poetic pieces as a way to think about the way in which we navigate through knowing about and understanding the genocide and other wars that endure.

Here are Days 51 – 60 as they come

Day 51

I waited for my heart to harden after the kids were gone

I waited for the years of love to dissolve as if they never happened

I waited for the day when the remembrances of silly family laughter

would disappear with the setting sun

& I would wake up innocent,

as if I had never known anything good

 

It was starting to happen in small ways

I couldn’t recall the last good day

 

And then all the flowers poured in

In wreaths and ribbons and bouquets

Thousands and thousands and thousands of flowers

Each dead at the stalk

All dead from the moment they were cut

Every single one dead in their glorious & beautiful selves

 

Just like the people we lost

In those one hundred days

 

Day 52

So what if we were all Christian

Would the media brand it

Christian-on-Christian violence?

How do the dead declare the part of their identity they were killed for?

 

Day 53

There were echoes if one listened for them

This wasn’t the first time

 

There were echoes in Acholi

There were echoes in Armenia

There were echoes in the Americas

In Bangladesh

In Bosnia

Cambodia

The Congo

China

There were echoes in Darfur

There were echoes in England

There were echoes in Finland

In Georgia

In Germany

In Hawai’i

In Herero

In India

In Ireland

Japan

Kenya

Latvia

Mongolia

Nakapiripirit

Nairobi

There were echoes in Orange County

There were echoes in Ovambo

In Poland

In Palestine

In Queensland

In Russia

South Africa

Southern Sudan

Tonga

Uganda

Vietnam

Wales

There were echoes in Xenophobic attacks everywhere

Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe.

 

Where on this planet has not been touched?

The earth palpitates with violence

as if it needs violence

as if violence is a heartbeat – if not here now it’s over there

if it’s not over there now, it’s on its way here

 

Ours wasn’t the first or the only one;

It was our most painful.

Day 54

It is absurd to think that a little girl will forget

how her mother’s hands felt when she used to plait her hair

some tugging, some lining the scalp with an oiled wooden comb

for clean patterns

 

some cool oil, some warmth when her hands gently repositioned her head like so

sometimes a last pat on the back of her head, sometimes her neck.

Okay, it’s done, you can go out and play now

 

Absurd that any little girl would forget that and has.

Day 55

Our lives became both

endless and immediate

 

There were no guards at the door

There was no door

& the only tax required was a last breath out

 

One moment you were alive

& the next gone

One minute you were alive

& moments after that you wouldn’t die

your chest gargled endlessly

we were afraid of being heard & then we weren’t

One minute we cared

& the next nothing mattered

 

Day 56

Before the maiden voyage

we heard that every water-faring vessel

needed sacrifice

 

The sacrifice had to be young

The sacrifice had to be blemish free

The sacrifice had to have no dimples, no piercing in the ear

The sacrifice could be male or female

 

Stay close to home, we were beseeched

Stay close to home lest the sacrifice gatherers came by

We stayed close to home, in those first days

We stayed close to home but the sacrifice gatherer didn’t seem to care for details

They came to harvest all kinds of bodies for a ship whose size has never been seen

Day 57
We were halfway to dead when we were reminded
that we were halfway to dead
Hovering, suspecting, tripping
or tiptoeing over the terrain
lest any semblance of confidence betrayed us again.

Ghosts flitted about
attentive to our progress
Chrissie knew

Chrissie could see that having never left ourselves
we were never going to arrive

 

Day 58

Karmic proportions may indicate

that we wanted, expected, earned what we got

that we wanted it

that we had to go through it

that we had to overcome the trials of life

 

And you who hasn’t gotten it yet

were/ and/or /are lucky

 

think again

think again

as long as we’re caught inside the neveragainness of things

we will remain blind to the hundreddaysness of others

 

Day 59

You want me to talk about what happened

because you say you want to understand

because when you engage with people like me, you say you can make a difference

because you say we all need to make a difference

because all of it, as you say, begins with me telling you what happened

 

Change the blue dice

Choose the cast

Lock up the hypnotic evil-thought bearing others

 

When you engage you say, you can relieve me of my nightmares

you say you can help me to heal, to look forward without anxiety

 

When you engage, you say, you will do so with understanding

because you think that at the level of articulation that I have

you say you will have understood

because you will have gotten it, you say

because you feel me, you say

because you’re incensed, you say, & will continue to be

 

Dear God (or whatever is left)

save us from all the saviours of the world

 

Day 60

I’m coming to understand what seems to be so apparent in nature:

time passes

things change

some live, some die

none escapes this life without an end

 

I’m coming to understand that there isn’t much more else to it:

time passes

things change

some live, some die

none of us escapes a final end.

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