The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (116-120)

116.

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You see

the man at the bus stop?

the man with the earplugs tight in his earholes?

the man who is breaking?

who is dancing

who is dancing & breaking

who is break-dancing, breakdancing?

 

Look,

the breakdancer is losing his fingers

the man’s fingers are falling off

breaking off, breaking off

 

Broken fingers

dancing fingers

broken dancing fingers

scattered on the pavement

scattered & glittery because blood spray

glittery & bright because different nail polish on every finger

bright & shadowed because the sun catches & sends light back

to shatter everything on to the pavement

 

See the man?

We may need to reassemble the guy

the man

the break dancer

the man broken by exposure to unadulterated music

 

117.

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A prose list, a list of reasons:

God on my skin

The DNA on the inside of my ring

Your insistence on devotion

The regularity of the foghorn these days

Superstition

The buzz on my scalp when you say:

okay, that’s it, good bye

 

A white man, many white men will let other women

other white women go ahead on them at the line up for

the bus & then walk in after them as if you’re not

a woman, as if you’re not there

 

You’re already not there

he wants you to know

you’re not there

 

We were already dying

we might as well not be there

 

The rustling of leaves reminds us

that we’re always on the way back to nothing

Nothing

We were already dying anyway

 

I won’t kiss you good bye

Superstition or not

Foghorns mark time that we forget on longer days

The DNA on the inside of my ring

where my skin caught & bled yesterday tells me

I’m already dying, scrap of skin by scrap of skin

God on my skin, god on my skin where you kiss me

& a small list to explain

why I won’t kiss you good bye

 

118.

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so at first we had a rhythm

my bones did

but now

after the fourth murder

of me

my bones now

rattle

 

we had a syncopation

my bones and i did

why the pattern

why

the pattern

after all this was the fourth time

wasn’t it

the fourth time

to get killed

murdered

(might as well say it)

slaughtered

whose going to remember

 

so my bones have gone jazz

& you’re never going to know

when the next beat comes

where the next clackle of

femur & clavicle

 

(none of your

nonesense)

 

my bones do

rhythm & not

rhythm

tell me don’t

tell me don’t

the fourth time i should know

by now

i should know now

that there’s a spot on the kitchen shelf

an empty glass jar

labelled: tired-bone powder

 

119.

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shitstory

not murder or pillage et al

shitstory in the telling

engraving

remembering

 

that

i love you

(that’s herstory)

i love you – that story

i love you

not shit narratives

not shitstory

 

120.

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So I heard that your were done talking

that you’d reached the end of your words

that the rest of your life in silence

will be matched by respectful nods

from strangers who heard that you had run out of words

 

So you’re not talking anymore

but have you given any thought to how it looks

you bobbing your head up & down

in response to strangers nodding at you

 

you’re a snake

 

what does it look like with your head bobbing up & down

in response to strangers nodding their heads?

What do you think?

 

Oh, wait

right

you’re not talking anymore

***

& now that you’re not talking

& all I have is the bobbing of your head

up & down, up & down

this is what you told me

 

that your dad & his friends laughed

when they made lewd jokes between them

(none of which you remember

except that they laughed)

& all you remember is the laughter

& not any of how those jokes made you feel

 

today the men at the office make race jokes

as if you’re not there

& they laugh & snicker

laugh & snicker

 

now all you do is bob your head

up & down, up & down

maybe someday

you’ll forget how you feel about that

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 41-50

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 41-50 as they come

Day 41

If justice was in a race with time

Peace would have no medal to offer

 

If peace sat at the table with justice

Time wouldn’t be served

 

If time wanted justice, so bad, so bad

There would be nothing that peace could offer

Either by seduction or reason

 

Day 42

I kneel before you

 

I kneel before you but this is not an act of supplication

I kneel before you because I cannot stand

I kneel before you because I cannot speak right now

My gestures are wordless articulations

& the dark in my eyes is not an indication of anything you could imagine

& there is nothing, nothing that you could ever give me

 

Day 43

After all the madness

& it had to have been a madness

You hear the arguments and explanations

That it was inevitable

That it was coming

That it had to happen after all those years

 

Knowing what we know now

What else should we have expected?

 

I hear that my loss was inevitable

I hear that my loss was coming

I hear that my heart break was written in the stars

& in historical documents & even in the oral stories

We had to have been blind & deaf & dumb to not have known

We had to have been oblivious, thinking that we could live

to a full life of family and community like others

 

After all, who misses the inevitability of a mass event like a genocide?

 

Day 44

Days and days of shallow breathing interspersed with deep sighs

days zooming into nothing

days of years and years that morphed into decades

of life as a gift, of life as worth living

days on days-ing, we weren’t even counting

 

It wasn’t as if after all those days

a veil would lift and it would have taken just those days, nothing more

 

It wasn’t as if after all those days

there was a chance that normal would morph back

as if all the seeds that had sprouted in those one hundred days

would un-sprout themselves into nothingness

 

Day 45

We watched as faith crumbled off the walls in dull clumps

We watched as prayers dissipated into clouds which then returned as drizzle to mock us

Although sometimes it rained

& sometimes it rained hard, as if the earth was sobbing

but it was never so — the earth remained dispassionate to our circumstance

 

Eventually our superstitions burst like bubbles

or floated away like motes in the light

There was nothing left to hold on to, not even time which stretched and then crunched itself wilfully

Cats and dogs roamed about, feral and hungry

People crouched in the shadows, not all feral and all the time hungry

At a half past all time, even decay stopped for a moment

 

Ours remains Eden, not even a spate of killing can change that.

 

Day 46

If truth is to be known in order to be acknowledged, then this is the truth that we know:

we know the numbers

we know the number of days

we know the circumstances

where the machetes came from and who wielded them

where the dotted line was signed

 

we know who fled

who advanced while chanting our names out loud

the names they called us

and the papers and airwaves on which these names can still be found

 

we know who claim to be the winners & the victims

we know where the markers are for where we buried the children

we know the cyclical nature of these things

 

the impossibility of knowing everything that happened

we know that true witnesses cannot speak

and that those who have words cannot articulate the inarticulable

 

we know that there are those who died without telling what they knew

we know that there are those who live without telling what they know

 

we also know that some people choose to tell and some stories choose to remain untold

 

Day 47

My sister used to look up when she remembered

Sometimes she would have a small laugh before she started to recall a story

Often she’d be laughing so hard at the reveries that we all started to laugh

Soon enough we were all laughing so hard because she was laughing

And then she laughed because we laughed

And the memory of that story dissolved into the laughter and became infused with it.

 

My sister is not here anymore

I wonder if she remembers laughing

I wonder if she remembers anything

 

Day 48

So what is it to be alive today?

 

I no longer think about the hard beneath my feet

or the give of my body into sleep

or the way my skin used to dissolve deliciously from touch

 

Is this what it is to become a haunt?

 

Day 49

There we were, lining up like frauds

There we were, receiving medals and commendations

like frauds

There we were, listening to speeches and reading the adorations

about us as heroes – like frauds

There we were

holding in ourselves, like frauds

 

All we did was stay alive

While many, many others died.

 

Day 50

This is the nature of our haunting:

silent witnesses & silence itself

neither revealing nor capable

of explication

of what any of that meant

 

What do we need nature for?

All it does is replicate its own beauty

 

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.

100 Days, 50 Days In: A Poet’s Journey

From Zocalo Poets

Zócalo Poets

I am keenly aware of the paradox in thinking about the halfway point of writing and posting one hundred poems. For those who lived through or must still live through their own hundred days, there is no luxury of knowing a halfway point and yet I’m exhausted by the knowledge that this is only the halfway point.

I’ve come to appreciate the ability to count and depend on the passage of days as a reliable indicator that time passes. I’ve been watching how Wangechi Mutu’s photographs have morphed from very personal, embodied experiences of pain and death to images that radiate loss and loneliness through the passage of time and neglect. And I have looked at the poems I’ve written, thinking about what I can see – and what remains inaccesible to me.

When I wrote the first poem, Day 100, I gathered my visual cues about the landscape from

View original post 615 more words

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 61-70

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 61 – 70 as they come

 

Day 61

Incredulity is a soft-paced wonder

& in the thick of days

Memory is a slippery thing

 

What do we remember from those one hundred days?

What happened on the tenth day or night

Might have well happened today, or yesterday

Incredulous is word from an innocent space

It is tepid, blubbery sometimes

because everything can happen and everything did

 

Day 62

Unless you believe in the eye of the needle

This kind of poverty will never be about material

It won’t be about ragged clothing

or mud huts with broken walls

or river blindness

or murram roads

or bad humoured fields that hoard curses

and promise that there won’t be a harvest this year or next

 

This isn’t the poverty of sleep

or for that matter, dreams

 

This is my deep loss, my poverty:

He will never touch my hand again

He will never touch my hand

 

Day 63

Walter says life is hard

He says that there is nothing we can do about it

Walter says I have to be happy to be alive

 

Walter says to be alive is better than being dead

Be happy, Walter says

Be happy to be alive

 

If being dead is not all that it’s cracked up to be

Then what was that all that rush about?

For my happiness?

 

Day 64

There have been three so far

Three men who walk with your gait

Who turn, head first, the way you used to

Walk like you did, sauntering like a cat

 

Laugh with your laugh

Flick the wrist the way you used to

just before you pointed your finger to make a point

 

All three men wore your face for a moment

Lighted mine up

 

You mean to say?

 

And then you were gone again

and the men were just ordinary men

doing ordinary things

 

Three imposters

Three who acquiesced to your tricks of reminding me

that you used to be by me

Day 65

Often times I want to become words

I want to inhabit forgetting as a state of being

 

Other times I think that if we wore a cloak of silence

Then our invisibility would not be seen as repair

or a sign that everything was good

 

The problem of becoming silence is that silence doesn’t exist

 

It wasn’t ever completely silent

Nothing stopped to pay attention

Nature chattered on, busy with life cycling

And subsumed us into the process

Day 66
Sometimes I want to melt into the earth
I want to imagine that some time in the future
Children will run over the soil that I’ve become

Day 67

Some days
I want to stare at the sky
Perhaps I can learn something, anything
Some days I think about how important the sky has become
I think about it so much and in so doing, I make it exist
I make the sky an endless and expansive backdrop of blue

 

If there was a sky, how could it witness what it did
& maintain that calm hue?

Day 68

There’s no denying that these haunted days

Are not necessarily days of grey

There are flowers everywhere

Beauty is always undeniable

These hundred days are haunted days not grey ones

These hundred days are filled with ghosted moments

just like every day

 

Day 69

The world turns as it does

Spinning on its own axis and then around the sun.

Perhaps this galaxy is also spinning around something bigger

Perhaps all the worlds spin in order to avoid dealing with the numbers:

 

Fourteen

Three

All of them

Six from my in-laws

and all of my siblings, parents and their children

Twenty seven

Thirteen

Everyone

Everyone

All of them

Six

Nine

Twelve

My husband and all my children – seven in all

Two

Nineteen

I don’t know

I can’t count anymore

Nobody came back

I don’t know if they ran away to safety or

If they’re just all gone

 

Day 70

Too close for comfort when everyone around looks like you.

Too close when they speak your language

Too close when you’re from the same house

Same meal at the table

Same sofa

Same containment of the heart

 

We became other people

We were them, those ones

And in being slaughtered and reported as slaughtered

We lost any claim to intimacy or self

Even animals don’t commit slaughter

 

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 71-80

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 71 – 80 as they come

Day 71

Who says alas in the presence of betrayal?

Who dizzies away, swirling skirts & claims of nausea

Alas, alas, all the hand wringing!

 

It shouldn’t have been this way?

It shouldn’t?

 

It shouldn’t have been forms the dregs from the past

 

It shouldn’t have been this way

 

Would it have been better that all this was lobbed at your head?

Would it have been better if yours was the stuff of our nightmares?

Day 72

The difference between the top screw

and the bottom screw is this: direction

 

We are squeezed in by the past and the present

Everything is relative, they say

God and religion and offer escape from the screw

in the name of forgiveness, reconciliation & clean heartedness

 

Be like Jesus, forgive

Be like Jesus, remember to pray and to pay taxes

Be like Jesus, wear robes,

Have your first cousin shout in the streets about the second coming of yourself

Be like Jesus, hang out with prostitutes – love the sinner and all that

Above all be like Jesus and demand an answer in the moment of your cross

Why, God, have you forsaken us?

Day 73

There are witness stones along all roads

Between Jinja and Kampala

The road to Damascus

The roads leading to Kigali or Rome

Even the road less travelled

The old majesty of Kenyatta Avenue

Khao San, Via Dolorosa

And the Sea to Sky highway

where every few steps they say

is marked by the blood

of a foreign and indentured worker

 

Did you ever know stones in the road to scream?

They did in those days, you know

They still do sometimes

Day 74

In thirty- nine days there will be no more hindsight for sure

Today already there’s hardly any

No foresight

No insight

No encryption

 

In thirty-nine days, like today

There will be the same dullness about

The same powdery taste to everything

The same floaty feeling — the eerie pull to something beyond now

 

Ants keep busy

They have figured out that life is for living

And death is for dying

 

There is no space for those of us

Who are not dead and have yet to be resurrected

Day 75
There is evidence that this was a conspiracy of silence:
the insistence of green grass
the luminosity of a full moon
the leathered skin of the dead
the smile of skulls
flowers
the roar of the rushing river
endless, endless hills

If there was a shocked response
If this was an unnatural state of being
If this was a never, ever kind of situation
Why didn’t the world turn upside down?

Day 76

Another angle would have you believing that this is how it went down

This and specifically this.

And they will be right.

This is how it went down:

 

There were days upon days

Days upon days

Days upon days

Days upon days

Days that never seemed to end

Who’s to say when the first of a hundred days begun?

Day 77
We tried to sing but ended up croaking
We who used to be songbirds
In time, our throats had gotten dry

This is what happens when you start counting
Days in hundreds from a date that never was

Day 78

Insouciance must be blue

How else could we explain a sky that witnesses
And still insists on magical hues of its self?

Insouciance has to be blue
From royalty to madness
From the marked maleness of babies
To those that stayed death
From indigo at midnight
To the peasant hue of the mother of God
Another young woman to whom a hole in the pale sky announced
That she would bear a child
That she would bear
A boy dressed in madness

How else can we explain the resonances, echoes and exceptions?

The mother of God in us mothers of sons who had to be killed
& God in the mothers whose sons had to be killed

Day 79

A piece of cloth in a breeze

A clump of mud

A memory of desire

A broken yellow pencil with black stripes

Staedler Noris HB2 Made in Germany

A small stone

A clump of grass

A day

A pinched nerve

A delicate smell

A hill

A faded sign above the shop

Reads oca Cola It’s the Real

A child runs across the way

A list of jumbled images

 

None of which takes me away long enough to forget

 

Day 80

There is something inconsequential about all of this

One foot in front of another

One foot in front of another

To what end?

 

A nothing in front of a nothing

Round a round

Round a round

 

Never again and reconciliation

Like wayward birds about my head

Round a round a round a round a round

 

Blindfold me or not

Here’s another spot on the map

Where people are walking

One foot over another

One foot over another hundred days

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 81-90

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 90- 81 

Day 81
Nine times
Nine times they called out
Nine times, just nine

We know this because each call caused a finger to fall
We know this because there was one finger left
The ringed one
Only the ringed one

Day 82

This is to confirm that there is something to be said

For tying the waist really tight

Tight, tight, tight, tight

Tighter than when spoiling for a fight

Tighter that when getting ready to receive a heavy burden

Tight enough for days that rolled upon days

 

It was the tightness in our waists that kept us going

 

Day 83

We failed to read the clouds

As we had been taught to do in high school

Cumulonimbus chasing cotton balls

Cumulonimbus alone

Cumulonimbus with or without rain

 

What did it all mean?

What did it mean that we failed to read the sky?

It wasn’t in the cowrie shell readings

It wasn’t in the tea

Perhaps Cumulonimbus was a script in the sky

A writing that was not familiar

Not then and definitely not now

 

Day 84

Impressionistic moments follow each other

Like Monet come to life

It’s after two in the afternoon

Now it’s evening

Now suddenly night

 

Food, blanket

No food, no blanket

It’s all the same

 

There were no hundred days

Just a jumble of impressions

Moments that sometimes piled up

On top of each other

Sometimes moments lay side by side

Holding hands

Sleeping hungry

Or without blankets

 

Day 85

And God said: Let there be light

And there was light from the beginning of the world

There was light on this day like all the other days

Every day there was light enough to see everything

We didn’t always need to see

We didn’t need to see everything everyday

 

Day 86

My country belongs to God.

These are our scriptures:

 

Happy shall he be

that taketh and dasheth

thy little children unto the rock

Psalms 137:9

 

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord

Roman 12:19

 

I will be there

where there are two or more gathered in my name

Christ proclaims in Matthew 18:20

 

Jesus must have a permanent presence in the church

Where the door has been propped ajar for eternity

Jesus Christ must live here

Where congregants were struck in supplication

Pleading for their lives, pleading, pleading for their lives

 

Where shall we find comfort?

Where can we go in this country of God?

 

Day 87

Reconciliation is minding my business

Reconciliation is minding my life

Reconciliation is aimed at my head

Reconciliation leaves me no choice

 

Don’t get me wrong

 

Reconciliation is a grand thing

Reconciliation photographs very well

Reconciliation makes people smile

Reconciliation feels good, dresses well

Writes well, conjures good dreams

 

Reconciliation wants me to wipe my tears dry

To wipe the slate clean — well at least wipe it

It wants me to forget my first born daughter

The one I could not bury

The one whose body I walked away from

Day 88
After all this, today
Another vigorous attempt to divvy up moments equally
Stillness, nothingness
A vacuous attempt to move, to sound, to connect to anyone, anyhow
Time flashes
Time drags
In another couple of months we will begin to grasp
The unending nature of these one hundred days
As nothing except what it was —
A nothingness that compounded nothing into being

 

Day 89

What do crickets know about innocence?

Were they not there?

Did they not see more than we did

Staying closer to the ground than we ever were?

 

Innocence in that ghastly cry –Why?  Why do we do this to ourselves?

Innocence in that other proclamation – Never, never, never again

 

Innocence is power without experience

Innocence is a knowing untempered

Crickets know that there is no innocence on hallowed ground

 

Day 90

How these hundred days

Should be days to think

About reconciliation and forgiveness

To consider the irrationality of ethnic cleansing

To see the phoenix rise again

& grief overcome

To witness humanity & good

& the power of God

To make miracles

 

That ultimately

Commemoration is a crafted affair

A beautiful thing

A symbol of power and resonance

The everlasting flame

 

We don’t have to remember

The empty space in our arms

That our lost children will never fill

 

This is not our liberty

We’re not free to forget

 

 

 

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 91-100

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 100 Days – 91 Days

Day 91

We couldn’t have known, nine days in
That it would ever be over
It was a time warp that had us
In flashes and then in woozy moments 
That took forever

A machete hangs in a museum in Ottawa
A machete hangs perpetually in a museum in Ottawa
A machete hangs like a mockery of time
Like a semblance of that reality
In which another machete
Other machetes hang for what seemed a long time
But eventually they come down
Again and again and again and again and again
Even time marked by machete strokes
Can never be accurate

 

Mutu-kwibuka-91

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 91

Day 92

We wish for absolution for a clearing
for a forgetting, a filling of the heart
& a joyousness once more

We wish for children of innocence
we wish for an instantiation of things
a rationality that resonates with our emotions

We wish for the silence of the moon
the quieting of ghosts 
& a peace to rest in

 

Mutu-kwibuka-92

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 92

 

 

Day 93

Suffice to say that there was nothing sufficient for some
Elsewhere:
Elections, and the winners won
A car chase
War ended
Another war continued
Jackal emerged
Earth rattled
Now headlines
Now pictures
Now memories
Now colour
Now movement
Now silence
Now drama
Nothing reflects the efficiency with which those days went by
We were betrayed by a month and a half that now we call commemoration

 

Mutu-kwibuka-93

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 93

 

 

Day 94

 

We walked when our legs could carry us
hinky pinky ponky
hinky pinky ponky
Childhood rhythms carried us along
hinky pinky ponky
hinky pinky ponky
Songs from days of innocence
Like holding hands, like soft embraces
hinky pinky ponky
hinky pinky ponky
Father had a donkey
We needed a rhythm to walk
To move, to drag ourselves along

Who could count past four?
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Who could count past four?
hinky pinky ponky
hinky pinky ponky
Father had a donkey
Donkey die
Father cry
hinky pinky ponky
It seemed as though there was a time before tears
It seemed a dream to think that there was a time when fathers could cry

 

Mutu-kwibuka-94

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 94

 

 

Day 95

 

Time, they taught us
Was linear and exact 

Time was a series of beats, a line extending from the beginning of things

Forget the idea that illumination is an indication of knowing

Forget that 
We were trapped in a hundred days, a hundred days
Of light, each following the other, each following the other

Time bore witness to our erratic heartbeats but we
remain trapped in a hundred days that have morphed into years and years

How can we exist outside of betrayal by time and land?

 

Mutu-kwibuka-95

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 95

 

 

 

Day 96

What is the essence of beauty?
Why do mists mean, swirl and rise but never completely disappear?
Why should iron gleam through soil?
Why should our dances be graceful, our cloths bright
Our memories long, our language rich and layered?
Why should beauty render us speechless?
What is it to come from a land that swallows its own people?

 

Mutu-kwibuka-96

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 96

 

 

Day 97

The poet told us of her brother
The poet told us of her drunken brother, speaking of his dreams
He was an alcoholic, he was always drunk
The poet told us about her drunken brother who spoke of his mad, mad dream
She told us how he spoke like a mad man, about this dream
Like a prophet, insisting on an unknown truth
Like the drunken man that he was, imposing faith that no one wanted to hear
Like Jesus
Like all the holy prophets, even the ones we forgot
The poet told us about her brother who spoke of a dream
In which everybody would die
They would kill everybody
Except me, she said
Except me

 

 

Mutu-kwibuka-97

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 97

 

 

Day 98

If this should be a list of betrayals where should we begin?
At last, we’re here
At last, we’re gone
What is this life beyond one hundred days?
What is this life beyond one hundred days, twenty times over?
What days are left?
We were already in medias res
We were always inside one hundred days

 

 

Mutu-kwibuka-98

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 98

 

 

 

 

Day 99

It was sunrise every morning
It was the same land
The same sky 
The same rivers, hills, valleys
It was the same road that led away and back home
Same sweet air that amplified the voices through whispers, gossip, airwaves
Words leapt into our eyes and burned this new knowledge that was never new
But it was the earth that betrayed us first 
In those one hundred days that would never end

 

 

 

Mutu-kwibuka-99

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 99

 

 

 

Day 100

It was the earth that betrayed us first. 
It was the earth that held on to its beauty, compelling us to return. 
It was the breezes that were there, and then they were not there. 
It was the sun that rose and fell, rose and fell, as if there was nothing different: as if nothing changed

 

 

Mutu-kwibuka-100

Wangechi Mutu – 20th Anniversary Rwanda Genocide – day 100