The Kinyarwandan word which means both yesterday and tomorrow
World resolves itself in crowded crane's liquid eye, in the cry of ibis, eye that's gazed on anyone who's ever walked this path beneath acacias, through coffee fields to the river and back again carrying water or fish. Cry that cries the morning news. Come, let's walk this path together, empty handed, carrying nothing back but a few words of a language powerful enough to turn the river back on itself, to fill the river with bloated corpses. One day I swam far into Lake Kivu, a thousand feet of clear water below and nothing above except sun. My body suspended on surface tension, the line between air and thicker air, sun the point from which
the water swung. Yesterday I swam. Now I'm back home. Tomorrow Remera will swim out into that same lake, almost across the border, gut shot, gasping, almost there, almost. . . . Crowned crane wears a slash of crimson at the throat. Beneath its golden crest, beneath its liquid eye, the path winds through coffee fields to the river and back again. Fathom yourself in exile. In every gurgle of each morning's pot of coffee you hear your brother's last breath. You wake in a forest. You've been shot. Get up, stagger down the path to the river full of corpses. In its ancient terrible cry (fling your body in) ibis pronounces how beginning becomes the end.
From Ejo: Poems, Rwanda, 1991-1994 by Derrick Burleson, published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Winner of the 2000 Felix Pollack Prize in Poetry. Copyright © 2000. Reprinted by the permission of The University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.
Derick Burleson published four poetry collections, including Melt (Marick Press, 2012). He lived in Two Rivers, Alaska.
Date Published: 2000-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ejo