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

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