Rwanda, Ten Years After
The bones of her face
frame murdered eyes. All the light
from the square window
has soaked into her skin.
Her green skirt is the last
oasis in a starving land.
A man swings his flail,
threshing sorghum, and she sees
Years he has been walking
from his farm, across the village,
past the place where he killed.
He wears his one good shirt
to ask forgiveness. The evil one
possessed me, he explains,
the evil one. Still his eyes
III. In the Church
On shelves where hymnals rested, all in rows
are sheltered now, where shelter failed, the skulls
of murdered ones. These teeth, these throats enclosed
the voices that once swelled this chapel full
with praise; now see the song of flesh reduced
to bone and shadow – this one’s weathered smile,
that one’s flashing eye, all gone to dust.
The awful sameness of this rank and file
remains – and young ones, grapefruit-size and less,
the symphyses like scribbled lines half-done,
soprano voices stilled – O wickedness! –
their song destroyed before it had begun.
Oh yes, the silent choir sings loud: a hymn
of sorrow, of repentance without end.
They carry clay from the river path,
so red it hardly shows the stains,
and in bales and bundles what is left
after the threshing.
They tread, mix, bend, lift,
in the restored rhythm of generations.
Straw of their fields, blood of their kinsmen
binds the once-divided truth.
Once more they trust the bricks to the sun
so that homes for the living
may rise, may rise.