The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (31-35)

31.

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Now I’m riding a wave of Hail Marys and underneath a chorus:

You’re only human

You’re only human

and with that, you’re just a woman

 

Deep baritones and alto currents and the occasional soprano spray

You cannot move in just yet

You cannot move in just yet

 

Now I’m standing at the threshold

A river of Hail Marys rushes by

There’s a tide I’m waiting for

Clear spirits will carry me there

 

32.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

 

She insists on walking on the edge of the ditch with her arms outstretched for balance

but

her mouth is tight with focus

 

The edge of the ditch, like the rest of it, is muddy

She slips

She catches herself

but she will not walk on the generous path like everyone else

 

— that’s for walkers, she says

— that’s for walkers

— I’m not a walker, she says

— I’m a balancer.  I hold the world divided in my palms

 

33.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

what night

what night what burning proof what riding in the wind
howling in the throats of hungry children, hanging strings of broken guitars
what burning proof of light

what incidence what music what leafy branches, now stark, naked, dry, whitened bark
what memories of life what shadows from the backs of women
bending over howling children with churning acid, burning insides, tight, round, hollow hot bellies what leaking

what night burning with proof?

what dry knuckles what country, what crescent moon, what red cross
what worries about what neck-laced bullets, shards, casings, strips of cloth, strips of stories, stories of people, people of a desert glowing with memories of leafy branches and the burning proof of night

what meaning what conclusions of our women raped with knives, hands, broken bottles, bayonets, sticks

wet shop window panes of winter countries glistening, shimmering rain stones bouncing, where we long for love in shiny diamond rings, blood rubies, topaz blue dangling from earlobes, glinting from the newest cell phones

coltane

what meaning in the screams of one woman long confounded by a polish man in the darkest heart of Africa what howling by the river red bottomed monkeys darting off the road, scattering off in the path of jeeps with the blue and white of United Nations, red and white of Red Cross, FAO, We Care, We Care, We Care, we don’t.

what need for the children staring back at the screen, for pennies a day, only pennies a day

less than the price of a grande cup of coffee, a latte, a half sweet, half decaf, no foam, skim milk, vanilla, double shot of espresso

less than the price of a daily paper

What lies.

 

 

34.

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Purple is to Lavender

(Alice Walker)

Purple is to lavender

What crimson is to red blood

Gushing through the sin-stained heart

Purple is to lavender

What royal is to blue

Sky, blue blood, blue day blues

Purple is to lavender

What light is to the absence of white

On your wedding day, wedding night

Wading, wading muck

Purple is to lavender

What right is

In the face of right ways

Right rules

Right, might, height

Purple is to lavender

What crimson is to red

Heartache to love

Blue days white nights

And you

 

 

 

35

2014-08-02 20.54.12

 

Possibly

If all possible permutations of words

Have been calculated, sentences spoken, sentiments undone, expressions underlined, scored, beaten, shot, gartered, quartered, bent, given, taken, delivered, stored, left, denied and burned in piles, with elephant tusks and women;

If all possible permutations of words have died at the cross with Christ,

Or buried in mass graves of Bosnia, Liberia, Congo, Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, Acholi, China, Chile, Poland, Siberia, United States, Sudan and Sea-to-Sky highway in Canada;

If any words rose from the ashes in epic poetry and song from the silenced and then disappeared into the nothingness that trails like falling stars, like the smoky wisps behinds your eyelids;

I can still be certain of this – only those three words I hold will remain unsaid

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (21-25)

21.

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In this full moon

Two men get ready — a legacy and impending widowerhood

One man takes down a calendar from the kitchen wall

& re-marks the rest of the year in blue felt pen

then he sharpens the knives in the cupboard

no point in keeping blunt knives anymore

but he will keep the gold band for a while yet

The other makes his way up a mound of stories

clears his throat and begins his speech again

22.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

In this full moon

a man cuts out the remaining days of the calendar already marked in blue

miss, not miss, miss, not miss, miss, not miss

he strings them out on a clothes line to catch the sun tomorrow

We hear you, man

It was never going to be easy

23.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

The other man stands atop a mound of stories

Layers and layers of narratives, sketches, vignettes and the occasional poem

Right up there he leans on the podium and clears his throat

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honoured to stand here today

A gold band glitters in the light

He’s married, don’t you know?

We hear you, man

We hear you, we’re not deaf

24.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

In this full moon

a man prepares his legacy by parsing out the relevant dead

the relevant dead being men from a thousand years ago

he points at a picture of two metal fragments

(what are the indications that this man may live on forever in light of the evidence

of these two metal fragments?

Pretty good, I’d say.  Pretty good)

As long as we forget that women still go missing

As long as we forget that women still get murdered

As long as we forget that the missing and murdered women come from that pile of stories

Miss, not miss, miss, not miss, miss, not miss

wedding bands, moonlight, madness and stories

So what is it, man?

25.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

Between this full moon and the one before it and the one before that

and before that and before that going back some time

a woman steps into a place that vibrates at such a high frequency

that she disappears altogether

we never see her again

we call her among the murdered and the missing women

what is it about the Franklin Expedition that we must never forget?

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (16-20)

 

16.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

 

 

Tell me a story, you said

Tell me a story  if you want me to stay

 

Once there was a woman in pieces

One arm here and one arm there

One leg flung across the living room

& her individual lashes were impossible to find in the patterned shag

 

17.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

Once there was a woman

who was struggling to put herself back together

Most of her torso was in the bathtub

& her tears were draining away in the kitchen sink

after having rinsed all the dishes from last night

 

18.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

Once there was a woman who hadn’t known

that care was what had kept the hinges of the elbows fluid

Take care of yourself

Take  care of yourself

Take care of yourself

 

Tell me a story if you want me to stay

 

There was a woman who went shopping at the dollar store

She managed to get a bottle of school glue between her teeth and paid for it in pennies

Her limbs re-fused when the white glue turned clear

but it was hard to glue the skin on her back properly

because her fingers had become tacky from all the gluing that day

 

Tell me another story

If you want me to stay

19.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

 

White butterflies by the rail road trucks

A motorcyle parked by a flower garden

A man plays guitar by the waterfront and sings a sad song

The sky is blue

The sky is clear

 

Tell me a story that is not a sequence of beauty

Tell me a complicated story so that I might forget that I should be happy

 

20.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

Once there was a woman who wanted to be a saint

So she conjured up a trophy at the mayor’s office and lined up at ticketing

 

(That doesn’t make sense)

 

Once there was a woman who wanted to be a saint

So the mayor walked right out of the office, right up to her at her place in line at the ticketing office

and handed her a trophy

Her parking tickets disappeared at that same moment

 

(That doesn’t make sense)

 

Well sainthood doesn’t make sense, does it?

How can we make miracles when we can’t see the precious that we are?

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (6-10)

 

 

 

10.

Sons Also Daughters 

For Tamara Symanska-Golik

 

Sons Also Daughters

Rummage through your life

Picking this, picking that

 

Killers all,

Sorting through your bones

Taking this, taking that

 

Also daughters

Picking at strands of hair

Gawking at roomfuls of combs, ribbons, brushes

 

Also daughters

Picking what seeds to save

Which to discard

What instances to remember

Which to forget

 

Sons also daughters

Killers all

Spreading seeds, writing code

One zero one zero

One for life

Zero for nought

One for air

Zero for everything else

 

Sons also daughters

Bear life

Hold the proof of your existence

In the stories they pick from your things

Your hair brush, your bones

Your fingernail clippings, you clothes, sheets

Shoes, you papers, love letters

Your old spices, the whole kitchen

Your memories of that place

Your loves, regrets, dead dreams

 

Also sons

Also daughters

Also sons

Also daughters

 

9.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

Enough

 

Enough with the uneasiness

The not belonging

The where are you from really where are you originally from

Enough with the how long have you been here have you been back when are you going back do you visit often aren’t you lucky to come from a place so warm do you like it here

Enough with the statistics that show that migrants come to this country with a higher level of education than the natural-born citizens and on average their children tend to do better than their parents maybe because they are born citizens but not natural-born citizens and why is there such a lack of nurses and doctors but we can’t trust the level of training they bring so they must mop the hospital floors and drive the gurneys to the morgue and drive taxis with their strong accents because they are used to driving in impossible traffic over there and at least they have a job in these days these terrible days these days of world-wide recession also called an economic down turn

My economic down turn happened way back when we left with some clothes, one photo album no books and plenty of hope because there was a shortage of nurses and they spoke English where we were going and it was not going to be so cold in the winter after all

My economic down turn happened when my job searches were limited to those that required high-school certificates and on the job training otherwise the directions to the human resources office led to the exit at the back of the building where a dark-skinned security guard held a cigarette between a yellowed thumb and index finger and had no smile for me

I want to go home

I’ve got the high-school certificate and years of misdirection, decades of living in paradise aren’t we lucky to live in paradise aren’t we lucky to have the mountains and the beaches and all this aboriginal art to look at to look at to look at don’t touch

I’ve done my stint at washing dishes for twelve-hour shifts working at the golden arches where customers demand white vanilla ice-cream no chocolate on it because I could never have understood that white vanilla ice cream was no swirl and what didn’t we have ice cream where I come from

We all want to go and live in paradise after all this after all this

After all we are not the inheritors of the riches in our backyard because we don’t have any trained geo-physicists to survey the land or ethics panels to tell us

That it is

Not right

not right

not right to

take

take

take

And leave us the pollution to deal with the high unemployment the shine gone from our dark skins the white smiles the ring-wormed children the long train of cervical cancer that they say is on its way to Africa

Now all I need is a passport and a country to call home

 

8.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

Smoke

I’ll never smoke again

Smoke

I’ll never drink again

Smoke

I’ll only drink for health and only red wine at that

Smoke

I already drank another one and hid away the can

Smoke

I lie

Smoke

I evade

Smoke

It’s all make up anyway

Smoke

We all die some day

Smoke

It’s not really a struggle, it’s a game, I can handle it

Smoke

You don’t matter

Smoke

What a fucking disaster

Smoke

I can’t wait to start again

 

7.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

Our lands like our bodies like our minds like our mines

for excavation

what’s your blood type?

what’s your blood type?

what’s your blood type?

will you be donating your organs?

If so, tick this box

 

If not tick this other box

Sign here and here and here and here and here

 

6.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

 

And so it was that we slid into things at the beginning of spider season

Spiders across the kitchen floor

Scuttling over the memory of us just there

 

Spiders along the wall exactly where your palms were

 

One spider hanged delicately, deliciously

hovered and then climbed up and disappeared into nowhere

Perhaps you were never here after all

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (1-5)

5.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

The Microphone is not a Gun

The fact that a man picks up a microphone – that’s it, you see? That’s what makes him a rapper. It’s not a gun, it’s only a microphone.

Eminem. Interview with Zadie Smith. “The Zen of Eminem,” for Vibe Magazine.

I agree.

It’s not appropriate to think that the microphone could be a gun – it’s not. It’s only a microphone.

Not like the blues weeping, dripping all sassy like, sexy like, painful like, relieved like, sad again, like no word ever spoken – it’s nothing. It’s only a microphone.

And microphones are dead.

No.

Microphones are not dead.

No

Microphones are dead.

No.

Microphones are not dead.

No.

A microphone will switch on a voice whose cross-hairs marks everyone in the room; more, everyone within earshot.

A microphone will illuminate the dogs, the cockroaches, the foreigners, illegal aliens, refugees, the bastards arriving here by ship, here to take our women, our men, talk our children out into the streets, into hazy drug addicted lives; here to convince us that it never happened, it never did, nobody touched their them, nobody, nobody sodomized our kids, not even in God’s name.

The microphone is not dead.

It’s dead.

It’s not dead.

(The microphone is dead without a voice)

The microphone is all your life reduced to nothing

You’re dead when the message comes through to say that you are, or soon will be anyway. The voice behind the microphone says — kill the bastards! Gas them! Hack them! Shoot them! Get rid of every single one of them.

It’s not a gun, Eminem says. It’s not a gun.

 

The microphone for sure is not the poet who proclaims the death orders.

It’s certainly not a pile of tusks in Mombasa waiting to catch a fire and scream nothing.

Don’t you know that elephant tusks have no voices?

 

Microphones are not flowers, not love songs, not God on the podium, not Christ, or Mohammed, wailing in the desert

God is love! God is love! God is Love!

There is only one God

There is only one God

There is only one God

And God is love in the priest’s hands, in the killer’s trigger finger, your mother’s hands, mine – all God’s love – tell us!

Tell us, God’s man, tell us!

 

This microphone is not a gun. It’s a microphone. It’s not God carrying on, spewing love from the mountain-top.

It’s only a microphone.

It’s not a gun aiming to shatter your innards, desecrate that temple of love that you carry about, as your thoughts disintegrate into dust motes that float only in the light.

 

But have no doubt. The microphone is not a gun, but it can and will kill you.

The one that will save you only needs to whisper the truth that you already carry in your veins —

You’re alright as you are.

You’re lovely as you come.

You’re beautiful even as you look away, even as you sigh, holding you head in your hands, thinking that you can’t take much more than this.

You’re here

You exist

I see you

You belong with me, with us.

I love you

I need no gun, no microphone for that.

4.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

Blue Grey for Jodie Martinson

 

We, who are peddlers of stories, only focus on the blue grey

It’s the blue grey you insist on, isn’t it?

 

Once there was a woman who lived and died, as we all do

But she had a story

 

 

We, peddlers of stories, trade in the dark

Un-mucking details

Clearing shadows

Sweeping the dusty edges of stories that might have been fun, or even funny

 

Once there was a woman with a story

And now there isn’t

 

It’s the blue grey in the shadows beneath the boats

At the marina on False Creek

Nobody looks there and nobody cares

Small waves, small waves

 

We peddle stories, what more is there?

 

Once there was a woman

What happened to her made us take second glance

 

Once, a woman with a story mattered because she had a story

We peddle these things as if they were nothing

One story, the next and the one after that

We get fixed

We get our fix

We fix

 

Once, there was a woman who lived and now doesn’t

She mattered because she had a story that piqued our interest

 

Once, there was a woman, six times, sixty six or six hundred

But none had a narrative like hers

 

Once, there was a woman whose narrative claimed her

Molded her, like clay, into someone

Someone who mattered when her story engulfed the headlines

Her details were important

Having been dusted off from the corners and shadows where no one looks

 

It’s your insistence on the blue grey, isn’t it?

Grey December skies, whitish, sometimes black, belie soft waves under the boats

At False Creek, where red-roofed houses upon houses overlook the water

Witnesses at everyone turn but none are interested

Except you and I, peddlers of stories

Who get our fix, fix and are fixed

3.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

I wish it were night

Because what I need to tell you needs night

 

It needs drawn curtains, Bob melody, warm blankets, sleeping children dreaming, sucking at their mouths and your dark skin

 

What I need to tell you

Needs night

Your hands cupping my shoulder, the heat in your eyes

 

This night

Tonight

This night I need to talk to you

This night needs me, needs you, needs black

No streetlights – black

No moon – black

 

No black thoughts of black people here there every place

That black is black is black is black is me is you

 

What I need to say needs you black night

black skirt on stained carpet

black stockings

black boots, bra, bangles in a gold heap jangling the day away now quiet

 

What I need to say needs night with thunder that tremors

rain in sheets

lightening that brightens the sky for a second — a truth that you are more than the sum of all the parts that make me feel good

:you are black soul

 

What I need to say needs no TV

no shadowing bombs in Beirut

boasting suicides bombs

bragging shots

competitions of displaced people inside outside

borders citizen refugees unwanted migrants vagrants

on the west side of a blue green planet with echoes of canned laughter

 

No fingers to my lips, love.

What I need to tell you

What I need to tell you

What I need to tell you

 

2.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

I’m holding your foot in my hand

Your right foot or left

Socked, and you’re not even Jesus

But

God, I need saving

 

I peel off your sock

or I put it back on

(I can’t remember now)

Your foot, socked in my hand

& you’re still not Jesus

I need saving

I need saving, my lord

My lord, I need saving

 

Your foot in my lap

I cradle it close

Slow enough to diffuse into my mind

 

In this moment

I am safe

 

 

1.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

How was it that in my mind I was walking through the field

Gathering armfuls of flowers

While you lay dying?

 

How is it that flowers don’t exist

that the most beautiful spot on the beach

is where you stood, hands in pocket, glum and scowling?

 

Race and stop, not much matters anyway

Stones and sand are evolutionary relatives

You and I are stars

Orion has become a coward, hiding behind the sun

And none of this happened

None of it happened.

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 1-10

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 1-10 as they come

Day 1

I have nothing

I stand before you with nothing

I am nothing

You stand before me with nothing

I don’t know what I know

but I know that you know nothing

Having come from nothing

To nothing & from nothing

Let my nothing meet your nothing

We may find something there.

 

Day 2

This will not be a litany of remembrances:

We know who the guilty are

The guilty know themselves

This is a charge against the witnesses

& those who cannot speak

This is a charge against those who speak incompletely

& incoherently

Against nature who saw everything & did nothing

against the bodies that dissolved

& the ones that refused to dissolve

those that insisted on writing the landscape with bones

This is a charge against pain

against heartbreak

against laughter

against the dead.

 

Day 3

We were pock-marked by these things:

a torrent of accusations falling like rain

bayonet sticks

lies

We were mocked

by faith in tiny shards

by the cross, with its pliant figure

representing grace

or representing the presence of God

What God in such a time?

What God afterwards?

What God ever?

Day 4

Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
We have run out of days

Day 5
What do I remember?
Nothing but the contagion of stories
What do I want to say?
What do I want to say?

Day 6
Images from those days return like silent movies
The available light of the rest of this life and I
can’t hear anything
Just the silent movies

Day 7

Then we stumbled into the place where words go to die

& where words come from

 

First we bathed in it in it like sunbathers

then we washed ourselves in it

we rinsed our mouths out

shampooed our hair

swam in the words

& at night

we covered ourselves in words

& went to sleep

 

at night

the nightmares returned

but the dreams also came

 

Day 8

Justice woke up and went to work

but no one showed up

 

Justine, not justice, went to work

but no one showed up

 

Justice and not Justine

woke up and went to work

but no one showed up

 

women woke up and went to work

no one knows where Justine and/or

Justice are doing these days

Day 9
These days
circle and circle
some days soar from above like kites
others circle around and around
like hyenas waiting for the story to die

some sit
some stand in long legs
vultures wait
some stay some change seats
others come and go
some dive in
some walk, crawl, cycle
dial on the radio to listen
to stories in embers
stories aflame
stories in stories
stories stoking stories
stories stalking stories
stories in circles & circles

those stories haven’t yet killed me

Day 10

What indeed

constitutes

the criminalizing function

of language in media?

 

Stuffed

Hacked

Punched

Pumped full of bullets

Slaughtered

& left to rot on the street

 

Pigs

Dogs

Cockroaches

 

People murdered

Calculated and rated on a per hour basis

& sometimes exacted to ethnic & tribal

differences

struggles

divisions

clashes

 

Never people you know

Until they are

 

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?

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

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.