November 2014

If you take away flowers from my poems

One of my four seasons will die

If you take away the wind,

Two seasons will die

If you take away bread,

Three seasons will die

If you take away freedom

My whole year will die and so will I


Wanka bangwe ntiwanka zana ndabe
(You refuse to stop fighting, but you can’t
hide the wounds.)
Rundi proverb

Dinner time.  A fire stoked with the day’s haul of dry wood.
Pots and pans are brought out along with the cassava and beans.
Until a goat is slaughtered, meat passes lips only in dreams.

Be ready.  Insolent guns could start again at any time.
They usually begin by probing the air with single piercing shots.
Each noise a slap across the face and a stab at the heart.

Eyes dart, hands freeze when the metallic barking begins in the hills.
For some, only mouths keep moving.  Chewing furtively.  Quickly.
Eyes looking out the door are already running into the forest.

The hills grow quiet now as triggers move on.  Darkening as clouds
Pass over.  Brightening as the weakening sun returns.  This was a
Beautiful place—before.  Now the breeze may be a Trojan horse
Hiding marching feet and psychotic eyes.

House and field once rooted these people solidly to the red earth.
It gave food and Shelter.  Your children could grow tall and strong
In its embrace.  Now it is a searchlight.  Come rape, loot, or kill.
No matter the uniform.

Children play.  Each move tentative.  The desire for fun struggling
With a wary glance over the shoulder.  A mother hovers close in
Case feet need wings.  The guns love children the most.  Each a
Potential recruit for others’ wars.

The final dying rays pierce the underside of the clouds on the
Western hills.  Lanterns wink on around the village.  A woman sings
Low over a steaming pot and another joins her.  A monkey hoots
In the branches.  The land settles into itself.
Another day of peace.