100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 11-20

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.

Day 11
Savage savage savage
savagesavagesavage
sa vedge sa vedge
sav edge sav edge
save edge save edge
saved saved
saved

Day 12
What now?
That we must create our own world
That we use the right words for the world we want to live in
Like God: Let there be light
And there was light

Let us forgive our enemies
Let us be good examples for the next generation
Let us belong to one another
Let us be friends

Day 13
There was a rainbow in that sky
the day a chain-linked fence separated us

You probably saw the rainbow in the sky
The chain-linked fence, you probably saw it as well

Here are Days 11-20 as they come
Day 14
Now their eyes flit flit flit
dragonflies in the afternoon
their hands are calm as they write
but clammy in the handshake
what can we do for you?
what can we do for you?

Their eyes like dragonflies, what can they do for me?

Day 16

We were the carriers of the events
Days and nights worked in tandem
to make us forget

We carried proof of place & proof of time
We recited these details over & over
We marked our steps
We marked the cadences into a rhythm & held them close to heart.

Day 17
This is the horror that did not turn you into stone
This the poem, the mirror with which you can behold
that you did not turn into stone
This is true: you’re still not stone

Day 18
Yesterday tripped and fell into evening
As it plunged deep into the night, voices rose up
from the abyss:

Come! Come!
They called
Come!
We never slept, trying to makes sense
whose voice was whose

Yesterday tripped and fell into a long night
of calling, of voices beckoning, recalling
things done, things undone by time

Today, I’m trying to sort out the differences
whose voice was whose
which place, what time

They all sound the same now — the dead and the
unborn; they all sound the same.

Day 19

So this is what the Greek storyteller foretold:
First, the pity inducing event

Those poor, poor people,
Pity in the numbers, pity in the grotesque photos that followed
writing and the reading that followed

There was nothing, nothing we could have done different
Everything was beyond us

Then came the fear it would spread like contagion
Uncontrolled like a forest fire

Now it is time for catharsis

Day 20

It has been called a harvest of death

It was more like a net that was cast

A fisher net

A fisher net cast by a man

A fisher of men

Christ, was that you?

Advertisements

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 21-30

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 21-30 as they come

Day 21

A ring around a rosie

A ring around a posy

A ring around a peony

A ring around a buttercup

A ring around a baby’s breath

A ring around a bouquet

 

A pocket full of posers

A pocket full of diamonds

A pocket full of memory

A pocket full of justice

A pocket full of ideas

A pocket full of shit

 

Ring around a rosy

A pocket full of posies

Achoo! Achoo!

We all fall down!

 

Day 22

Twenty years later we’re young again

as we should be

Welcome to this country

Welcome

 

Come and see how we live

Come and see how we get over everything

Come and see how we exhibit skulls

Come and see how we caress skeletons and tell stories about who these bones were

Come and see how how easy we are with things

Come and visit.

 

Our country is now open for tourism.

 

Day 23

Some of us fell between words

& some of us onto the sharps edges

at the end of sentences

 

And if we’re not impaled 

we’re still falling through stories that don’t make sense

 

Day 24

& then there was just the two of us

everything in flames

 

There was the two of us

your arm around my shoulder

mine around your waist

we hobbled on

just the two of us

 

we hobbled on

just the two of us for a while

& then there was just me

 

Day 25

Bones lie

Bones lie

Bones lie

About their numbers and bits and parts

 

Bones lie in open air, in fields, under brushes, along with with others in state vaults

in museums as if they belong there

in piles, as if they would ever do that in life

 

Bones lie about being dead

bleached

broken

pulverized, as if we who are not all bone

don’t live with nightmares

 

Bone have nothing to say

Nothing about who it was that loved them the most

 

Day 26

That day dared to set

As did the one after it and the one after that

Days became long nights

That became mornings which appeared innocent

of the activities of the day before

 

That day shouldn’t have set

 

The next day

if that other day had collapsed from exhaustion, should have held the night sky at bay

That day should have remained fixed in perpetuity

so that we would always know it to be true

 

Day 27

Glory be to the Father to whom all this is his will

Glory be to the Son who claims to have died for the sins of all men

Glory be to the Holy Spirit that guides the tongues of flames of the believers

As it was in the beginning

As it was in the beginning

As it has always been

 

As long as we need to hark back to a beginning

that only exists in the memory of the elusive trinity who can only be accessed through faith

Nothing will ever change

Nothing will ever change except by faith

So nothing will change

 

Day 28

When I (survey) look out at the world around me

(The wondrous cross)

On which (the Prince of Glory) every one that I loved, died

(My richest gain) My richest gain? My richest gain?

I count (but) as loss

It was all loss, all of it

And so I pour contempt on all (my) the pride

That seems to think that there is anything to celebrate

 

Don’t ever forbid it, Lord

That I should (boast) dare to speak out

(Save in) on the deaths

(of) Christ, my God, everything, everything that mattered

All the vain things that charm (me) you most – the sky scrapers, the clean streets

& the moneyed vendors

(I) You sacrifice (them) your own morality (to his blood)

 

There is nothing to party about, nothing

 

See from (His head, His hands, His feet) this vantage point

Just how much sorrow and love and bone and blood flow mingling down

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Did ever?

Where did ever such a twisted sense of wreath making come from?

Or why would thorns compose so rich a crown?

Can you not read the land?

 

Were the whole realm of nature mine

That were a present far too small

Love so amazing so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all

 

So it took my soul, my life, my all

 

Day 29

Time is a curve

so long that it seems to be a straight line

 

I can see myself walk away

I see

& then remember my heel striking the ground first

the weight of my shoulders

the back of my head & the low hang of my neck

 

Circle forward

What does my face matter if my heel is still cracked?

 

Day 30

A grid

a fence

a field

some grass

some stumbling

 

a ditch

mud

a broken slipper

 

a tear

a sheet

some fumbling

a groan

 

a metal plate with a faded rose in it

a rusty kettle that will never boil.

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 31-40

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 31-40 as they come

 

Day 31

Here: it is daytime now

We’re here

It is now twenty years after a hundred days that we did not plan on living through

We wanted to, prayed, yearned to make it

 

Not that those who didn’t didn’t

Day 32

 

In Eden

We heard birdsong and didn’t hear it

We saw the soft flutter & sail of a falling leaf, but we didn’t know how to read it

We worked the earth, lived off it, trampled it back and forth, back and forth

 

In Eden

We never thought about the difference between house and home

we never even thought to call it; we were it, it was us and ours

gang wa

 

Now as we fall unendingly

we know different

we understand belonging as transitory at best

& as elusive as the future we once imagined.

 

Day 33

So we mothed along towards the fire

With the full knowledge that there couldn’t be anything else beyond this

We mothed along

with bare arms, wingless

 

a light step here

a light step there

sometimes no step at all

& other times dreamless stops

 

We mothed along knowing that it was possibly death

& not fire that beckoned

 

Day 34

So we saw, tasted, smelled, touched, felt and heard what we knew to be true

 

We had to see, taste, smell, touch, feel and hear in order to know this word

–genocide?

How much made it valid?

Would one less death have disqualified those hundred days from being called a genocide?

 

And more?

 

Day 35

There’s no denying the flap of an angel’s wings

for someone who felt it fan her face in those days

 

The salve of a gentle touch

The stretch of an arm to catch you as you reached for the top of the wall

the strength of a wail

the depth of a moan

the light of unending days

the consistency of seasons

as real as angel wings

 

There is, however, a slope that leads

from these days of fiction

into nightmares that are real.

 

Day 36

Oh, I curse you

I curse you long and hard and deep and wide

I curse you with fire from my mouth

I join everyone with fire in the mouth

Wherever we live & wherever we lay

We curse you, we curse you, we curse you.

 

Day 37

When Christ lost a beloved friend, he cried out:

Lazarus!

Lazarus, come out of the tomb

Lazarus, come out of the tomb

 

Imagine Christ crying for the beloved on this land:

Lazarus! Lazarus! Lazarus! Lazarus!

Lazarus, come out of the tomb!

 

Imagine Christ with a croaking voice:

Lazarus, Lazarus, Lazarus

 

Christ in a whisper

Christ mumbling:

Lazarus, Lazarus

 

Christ spent

Christ crumbled

Oh, Lazarus

 

Christ either had no idea of these one hundred days

Or he must have lost his voice in the first few moments

 

Christ may just have not been capable

He might have noted the endless and boundless losses of the beloved on this land

He might have hung his head down, powerless in the face of this might

 

Christ, look to your mother

ask her to pray for your intercession

 

Day 38

If there’s a breeze tonight

We might think for a moment that it is sweet

 

There is a breeze tonight

& it is sweet

 

I can’t remember if the breeze was sweet in those days

There was a breeze

There might have been

 

Why not?

It might have been the same sweet breeze that kept us from burning

 

Day 39

If we were to go back to the time before these hundred days

We couldn’t return without knowing what was to come

 

How could we?

 

If we were to swear off, that we couldn’t return to these days

I don’t know that we could; we know

 

We’re marked by this knowing

We know that we’re marked

 

& this knowledge taints us

& so we can never absorb your innocence

 

But

Your innocence will not shield you from these days

Because your innocence does not cleanse

& so your innocence cannot save you from what you must know

 

Day 40

She is my country

 

Every time she goes

I am a leaf in the wind

Every time she goes

She takes with her

All the home that I can ever claim

 

What use do I have for the carrier of bones?

What anthem can I sing for the graves of children?

 

She holds my home in the country that she is

& every time she returns, she is my flag

& I am home again