Primeiro dia de Verão: um poema

Flor del Verano_El Girasol_Toronto_2014

Júlio Castañon Guimarães (born 1951, Minas Gerais, Brazil)
Summer
[ Toute l’âme résumée – Stéphane Mallarmé ]
.
the sun
pricks the pores
ravages blemishes of spirit
.
what the sea gives back to the sand
the day outlines
in biceps and trunk and thighs
that embrace the landscape
Gloria the bay
the line of the horizon
.
in the hair below the belly button
a drop gathers in the entire summer
.
and it distills it
on the tongue
in a stain of salt.
. . .
Translation from Portuguese into English:

David William Foster

. . .

Verão
.
o sol
agulha os poros
devasta laivos de espírito
.
o que o mar devolve à areia
o dia desenha
em bíceps e tronco e coxas
que abraçam a paisagem
a Glória a baía
a linha do horizonte
.
nos pêlos abaixo do umbigo
uma gota recolhe todo o verão
.
e o resume
na língua
em um laivo da sal.

. . . . .


Augusto dos Anjos: “Intimate Verses” and “Immortal Lust” / translation by Daniel Vianna

 

Egon Schiele_O Abraço_The Embrace_1915

Egon Schiele_O Abraço_The Embrace_1915

Augusto dos Anjos (Brazilian pre-Modernist poet, 1884-1914)
Versos Íntimos
.
Vês! Ninguém assistiu ao formidável
Enterro de tua última quimera.
Somente a Ingratidão – esta pantera –
Foi tua companheira inseparável!

Acostuma-te à lama que te espera!
O Homem, que, nesta terra miserável,
Mora, entre feras, sente inevitável
Necessidade de também ser fera.

Toma um fósforo. Acende teu cigarro!
O beijo, amigo, é a véspera do escarro,
A mão que afaga é a mesma que apedreja.

Se a alguém causa inda pena a tua chaga,
Apedreja essa mão vil que te afaga,
Escarra nessa boca que te beija!
.     .     .
Intimate verses
.
Look! No one saw the amazing
Burial of your one final dream.
Only the ungrateful and mean
Gave you a shoulder for weeping!

Get used to the cesspit that awaits!
Man, in this miserable land,
Surrounded by wild beasts, can only stand
By dishing out even stronger bites.

Take a match – light your cigarette!
The kiss, the friend, precedes the spit,
The hand caresses – before the stick.

If someone saves you from hell,
Stone the hand that treats you well,
Spit on those who try to kiss you!
.     .     .
Volúpia Imortal
.
Cuidas que o genesíaco prazer,
Fome do átomo e eurítmico transporte
De todas as moléculas, aborte
Na hora em que a nossa carne apodrecer?!

Não! Essa luz radial, em que arde o Ser,
Para a perpetuação da Espécie forte,
Tragicamente, ainda depois da morte,
Dentro dos ossos, continua a arder!

Surdos destarte a apóstrofes e brados,
Os nossos esqueletos descarnados,
Em convulsivas contorções sensuais,

Haurindo o gás sulfídrico das covas,
Com essa volúpia das ossadas novas
Hão de ainda se apertar cada vez mais!

.     .     .
Immortal Lust
.
Do you really think that life-giving bliss,
The driving hunger of eurythmic atoms,
Will abort the molecules in motion
At the time when our flesh becomes putrid?!

No! This radial light that burns Being,
To perpetuate a victorious Species,
Tragically, even after we decease,
Inside the bones – goes on – keeps on – burning!

Deaf from abuses and offenses,
Our fleshless carcasses,
Convulsing and contorting the core,

Exhaling sulfuric gases from the tomb,
With the fresh lust of new bones,
Will yet press together more!
.
Portuguese to English translation: Daniel Vianna

. . .


“O Tygre”: William Blake / “The Tyger”

 

O Tygre_title_Augusto de Campos translation of the William Blake poemIllustration for Augusto de Campos translation of The Tygre by William Blake_From a Turkish Dervish mural 19th century.

O Tygre_first stanza.

O Tygre_second and third stanzas.

O Tygre_fourth and fifth stanzas.

O Tygre_sixth stanza

 


A poesia concreta: Tudo Está Dito / Everything Was Said: the “Concrete” poems of Augusto de Campos

 

Augusto de Campos_Axis_1957_translated by Edwin Morgan

Augusto de Campos_Axis_1957_translated by Edwin Morgan

Augusto de Campos_Tudo Está Dito_1974

Augusto de Campos_Tudo Está Dito_1974

Augusto de Campos_Everything was said_1974

Augusto de Campos_Everything was said_1974

Augusto de Campos_O Pulsar_1975

Augusto de Campos_O Pulsar_1975

Augusto de Campos_The Pulsar_1975

Augusto de Campos_The Pulsar_1975

Augusto de Campos_O Quasar_1975

Augusto de Campos_O Quasar_1975

Augusto de Campos_The Quasar_1975

Augusto de Campos_The Quasar_1975

Augusto de Campos_Memos_1976

Augusto de Campos_Memos_1976

Augusto de Campos_Memos_1976_translated by Claus Cluver

Augusto de Campos_Memos_1976_translated by Claus Cluver

.

Copyright dos poemas e traduções
© 1983 Wesleyan University Press

 .

The phrase Concrete Poetry was coined in 1956 in São Paulo, Brazil, after an exhibition of such poems (I Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta) that included works by the group Noigandres (Augusto and Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari and Ronaldo Azeredo). The poets Ferreira Gullar and Wlademir Dias-Pino were also featured. Eventually, a Brazilian Concrete Poetry manifesto was published. The manifesto’s core value was that of using words as part of a specifically visual work so that those words are not mere unseen vehicles for ideas.
Although the term Concrete Poetry is contemporary, the idea of using letter arrangements to enhance the meaning of a poem is an ancient one. Such poetry originated in the then-Greek city of Alexandria (in Egypt) during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.

Old fashioned metal typesetters' blocks_These tools were used by the print and publishing trades before the advent of the computer era_The Concrete Poetry movement relied on such standard building blocks for its words-as-objects format.

Old fashioned metal typesetters’ blocks_These tools were used by the print and publishing trades before the advent of the computer era_The Concrete Poetry movement relied on such standard building blocks for its words-as-objects format.

Vintage typesetters blocks_zero to nine


Gregório de Matos as Hell’s Mouth poet (A Boca do Inferno): a 17th-century poetical critique of the colonial city of Salvador da Bahia / translation by Daniel Vianna

Salvador da Bahia_a print of the city as it might have looked during the 17th century_by Paulo Lachenmeyer

Salvador da Bahia_a print of the city as it might have looked during the 17th century_by Paulo Lachenmeyer

Gregório de Matos
Diagnosis of the ailments that left the Body of the Republic – and all its limbs – ill; and a complete definition of what at all times is Bahia
.
What’s missing in this city?…The Truth.
What more is there gives it dishonour?… Honour.
Is there anything left to blame? – Shame.
.
Regardless of its great fame,
The devil is now living
In this city that is missing
Truth, honour, shame.

What brought it so much pain?… Bargaining.
What caused such perdition?… Ambition.
And amidst this insanity?… Usury.
.
Amazing misadventure
Of an ignorant, sad people,
Who know very little but:
Bargaining, ambition, usury.
.
Which markets do they follow?… The Black Slave.
Which “goods”, not so hollow?… Mulattoes.
And they prefer which people?… Mestizos.
.
To the devil the ignoble,
To the devil all these asses,
Who prefer among all races:
The Negro, Mulatto, Mestizo.
.
Who makes the fines so stiff?… Bailiffs.
Who makes the food come later?… Jailers.
Who takes all for their families?…Deputies.
.
It’s we are taxed to eternity,
And the land is left there – starving,
When we hear them come a-knocking:
Bailiffs, jailers, deputies.
.
And what justice is left?… It’s a wreck.
Is it freely dispensed?… It’s for sale!
Why are people so scared?…’cause it’s fake.
.
Help me God, so I can take
what the King gives us for free;
our Justice is known to be
A wreck – and for sale – and fake.
.
What’s going on with the clergy?… Simony.
And the members of the Church?… Lust.
Is there anything left to see?… Yes – Envy.
.
The same old story
Still drives the Holy See:
What brings them to their knees is:
Simony, lust and envy.
.
Is their anything monks won’t shun?… It’s Nuns.
What occupies their evenings?… Bickering.
Entangled they get in disputes?… With Prostitutes!
.
I would rather be mute
Than to utter hard truths:
The profession of monks is:
Nuns, bickering – and prostitutes.
.
Has the sugar run out?… It’s down.
Have we got better luck?… Now it’s up.
Has the treasury been fed?… They’re dead.
.
Cidade-Bahia has known
What happens to the sickest:
They fall ill, they get fever;
They’re down, and it’s up – now they’re dead.
.
Parliament don’t help?… It can’t.
It don’t have the power?… It won’t.
And if government tries?… It dies.
.
Who would think that such lies
noble parliament drives,
in predicament finds, and still:
it can’t, it won’t – and it dies.

.
Portuguese to English translation: Daniel Vianna

 . . .

Gregório de Matos
Juízo anatômico dos achaques que padecia o corpo da República em todos os membros, e inteira definição do que em todos os tempos é a Bahia
.
Que falta nesta cidade?… Verdade.
Que mais por sua desonra?… Honra.
Falta mais que se lhe ponha?… Vergonha.
.
O demo a viver se exponha,
Por mais que a fama a exalta,
Numa cidade onde falta
Verdade, honra, vergonha.
.
Quem a pôs neste rocrócio?… Negócio.
Quem causa tal perdição?… Ambição.
E no meio desta loucura?… Usura.
.
Notável desaventura
De um povo néscio e sandeu,
Que não sabe que perdeu
Negócio, ambição, usura.
.
Quais são seus doces objetos?… Pretos.
Tem outros bens mais maciços?… Mestiços.
Quais destes lhe são mais gratos?… Mulatos.
.
Dou ao Demo os insensatos,
Dou ao Demo o povo asnal,
Que estima por cabedal,
Pretos, mestiços, mulatos.
.
Quem faz os círios mesquinhos?… Meirinhos.
Quem faz as farinhas tardas?… Guardas.
Quem as tem nos aposentos?… Sargentos.
.
Os círios lá vem aos centos,
E a terra fica esfaimando,
Porque os vão atravessando
Meirinhos, guardas, sargentos.
.
E que justiça a resguarda?… Bastarda.
É grátis distribuída?… Vendida.
Que tem, que a todos assusta?… Injusta.
.
Valha-nos Deus, o que custa
O que El-Rei nos dá de graça.
Que anda a Justiça na praça
Bastarda, vendida, injusta.

Que vai pela clerezia?… Simonia.
E pelos membros da Igreja?… Inveja.
Cuidei que mais se lhe punha?… Unha
.
Sazonada caramunha,
Enfim, que na Santa Sé
O que mais se pratica é
Simonia, inveja e unha.
.
E nos frades há manqueiras?… Freiras.
Em que ocupam os serões?… Sermões.
Não se ocupam em disputas?… Putas.
.
Com palavras dissolutas
Me concluo na verdade,
Que as lidas todas de um frade
São freiras, sermões e putas.
.
O açúcar já acabou?… Baixou.
E o dinheiro se extinguiu?… Subiu.
Logo já convalesceu?… Morreu.
.
À Bahia aconteceu
O que a um doente acontece:
Cai na cama, e o mal cresce,
Baixou, subiu, morreu.
.
A Câmara não acode?… Não pode.
Pois não tem todo o poder?… Não quer.
É que o Governo a convence?… Não vence.
.
Quem haverá que tal pense,
Que uma câmara tão nobre,
Por ver-se mísera e pobre,
Não pode, não quer, não vence.

. . . . .


Gregório de Matos: Seeking Christ (Buscando a Cristo) / translation by Daniel Vianna

Gregório de Matos_xilogravura por Érick Lima

Gregório de Matos_xilogravura por Érick Lima

Gregório de Matos (1636-1696, Brazilian Baroque poet)
Seeking Christ
.
I run to your arms so sacred,
so bare on this holy cross;
Nailed open, there they greet me
– no, they do not chastise.
To your divine eyes, darkened,
that sweat, that blood, have opened;
To forgive me, have awoken,
and, closed, do not condemn.
.
To your nailed feet that don’t leave me,
To your blood, spilled, that cleanses me,
To your bowed head now calling me.
To your bared side I shall bind me,
I’ll fasten myself to those precious nails;
to be bound most firmly, and steady,
enduring as one – without fail.

.
Portuguese to English translation: Daniel Vianna

. . .

Gregório de Matos
Buscando a Cristo
.
A vós correndo vou, braços sagrados,
Nessa cruz sacrossanta descobertos
Que, para receber-me, estais abertos,
E, por não castigar-me, estais cravados.
.
A vós, divinos olhos, eclipsados
De tanto sangue e lágrimas abertos,
Pois, para perdoar-me, estais despertos,
E, por não condenar-me, estais fechados.
.
A vós, pregados pés, por não deixar-me,
A vós, sangue vertido, para ungir-me,
A vós, cabeça baixa, p’ra chamar-me
.
A vós, lado patente, quero unir-me,
A vós, cravos preciosos, quero atar-me,
Para ficar unido, atado e firme.
. . . . .


The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems by Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek

Wangechi Mutu_Day 44_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 44_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

The Rwanda Genocide (April to July, 1994) was one of the 20th century’s many horrific episodes in what has come to be known by the clinical phrase of “ethnic cleansing”. The Genocide was the culminating event in a civil war involving the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa peoples, and 800,000 people were killed in a mere three months. Both perpetrators and victims have had to re-build their traumatized nation, coming face to face with each other’s capability for depravity and also with that miraculous human need to acknowledge what happened – and to forgive.

When I tell you that the photographs of Wangechi Mutu are poems I honour her visual artistry in the highest way I know how: to give it the name of that uniquely human skill – poem-making – that I value above all else. At Day 100 she commenced with a moving image of a clay-caked woman whose eyes were – mercifully – closed. Other human figures followed. Why were they all women? Was it because it is mainly men who do these mass-killings worldwide? Then came photographs of limbs – hands, feet, bodies bagged – and these are piercingly close to “documentary” photography.
But she goes further still with images completely devoid of people or their “parts”. These may be the most powerful of all. Because of the hand-drawn number cards placed somewhere within each photograph, these person-empty pictures seem to indicate that something we cannot look upon has been left out. My mind wanders toward a hacked-up body dumped at a building site or an abandoned lot; by a rusty gate or in the loneliest corner of a concrete yard.
.
Juliane Okot Bitek happened to see Wangechi’s first Instagram picture, Day 100, from April 6th, 2014 – that being the 20th anniversary of the beginning of those awful events of The Genocide. And she responded as only a poet might do: to commit to an epic poem-making journey for 100 numbered poems. If Wangechi’s pictures are raw or allusive, Juliane’s poems are everything that words are most suited for: questioning/wondering aloud; feeling all feelings, wherever they go / thinking all thoughts, though they be inconclusive. This is the very core of poetry, and there is no other kind of language that can handle such horror and humanly touch all the marks: to speak of the un-speakable. It is Poetry alone that best honours suffering, loss, shame, responsibility.

Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek are both African-born. Each has lived far away from the land of her birth for a long time now – Wangechi in Brooklyn, New York, and Juliane in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Is it possible that the geographical distance each has achieved – from Kenya and Uganda respectively – both countries having felt seismic social effects from the terror of Rwanda’s Civil War – has helped them to turn Pain into Art? For this is, surely, one of the greatest goods of artistic achievement: to do something beautiful with our pain. These two artists – one a collagist and sculptor who is experimenting with photography for the first time, the other a poet who is creating epic poetry in real time – merge empathy, an imaginative rendering of the facts, and the search for meaning to create unique works-in-progress: call them 100 Days.
.
We invite our readers to scroll down through ZP May 2014 to read and reflect upon Juliane’s poems and to behold Wangechi’s photographs thus far. And to click on the links below and follow their journey through June and into July – until they have reached Day 1.

Alexander Best
Editor, Zócalo Poets
May 31st, 2014

. . .

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/kwibuka20?source=feed_text&story_id=624576410970511

http://www.julianeokotbitek.com

 

. . .

Juliane Okot Bitek
100 Days: a poetic response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days

.

Day 44
A hundred days of shallow breathing interspersed with deep sighs
A hundred days zooming into nothing
A hundred days of years and years that morphed into decades
of life as a gift, of life as worth living
A hundred days on a hundred days-ing, we weren’t 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 circumstances

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 the 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 know that some people choose to tell and some stories choose to remain untold
.
Day 47
I remember how 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

Wangechi Mutu_Day 48_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 48_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 49_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 49_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 50_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 50_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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 so 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.
. . .


The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems by Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek

Juliane Okot Bitek
100 Days: a poetic response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days

. . .

Wangechi Mutu_Day 51_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 51_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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.

Wangechi Mutu_Day 55_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 55_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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 measured
.
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

Wangechi Mutu_Day 59_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 59_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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.
.
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.

Wangechi Mutu_Day 61_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 61_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

. . .

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/kwibuka20?source=feed_text&story_id=624576410970511
. . . . .


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

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 Sometimes in April (directed by Raoul Peck and starring Idris Elba and Carole Karemera) – a collection of delicious greens and mist and rain. I have never been to Rwanda, but this is familiar land, it does not seem very different from places I’ve been, places that are encased with an intense and terrible beauty. I thought about how impossible it would have been to try and read the land for any sign of impending disaster. I imagined what it might have been like to be immersed in those one hundred days, and I also remembered what it was like to be “inside” those endless days of uncertainty during the years of unstable government in Uganda when I was a teenager during the eighties. I thought about the people who lived through the war in northern Uganda (1986-2007) and those who were taken by the Lord’s Resistance Army, many who never returned.

And the ridiculousness of measured time when the experience of those days plays out like a rubber band – stretching, snapping, stretching and snapping, and every time differently. I’ve also been thinking about how much these 100 Days have a way of taking Memory of those days beyond the realm of public commemoration: speeches, flowers, and eternal flames. 100 Days of poems is not an accurate depiction for anyone to depend on, but they are a way to enter into the private space not reflected by events outside. They have to be an imperfect collection; they’re barely edited and most of the time completely unchecked – emotionally. There’s been no time to craft these poems, to practice an art; this is raw expression. These are what I imagine 100 Days would sound like, if I could have a conversation with someone who has journeyed twenty years without much to celebrate. What must it mean to look forward when all that provided the impetus for your future remains deeply embedded in the past?

Mid-May: almost halfway through a hundred days and I check in with myself. I feel stretched, vulnerable, worn out. I must post a poem every day and yet I cannot write a poem every day – so I write ahead when I can. I feel vulnerable to the voices that can prevent me from sleeping and are an insistent whisper in my head during the day. I read through the poems already posted and look for cues and patterns but it’s like looking at my back in the mirror. A friend tells me that anger becomes apparent in Day 59. Do betrayal and anger occupy different spaces in these poems? I don’t know how to read these poems but I know what I carry.

Twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda is twenty years after the ANC won elections in South Africa; there is mourning and celebration at the same time. And gratitude for having come through – how can there not be? But what do we do with the persistent heartbroken-ness? How do you remember the worst time of your life after twenty years? War persists. A powerful undercurrent of apathy buoys others who understand that war “over there” has nothing to do with life “over here”. Some things get done through obligation and sometimes pity, without any acknowledgement of the connectedness that binds us all. War is a contagion; none of us is immune. As long as commemorations continue to focus on the might and muscle of the winners, there may never be enough space to hold dialogue with those who are yet to heal from the wounds of war.

Juliane Okot Bitek

May 16th, 2014

.     .     .     .     .

 


The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems by Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek

 

Juliane Okot Bitek

100 Days: a poetic response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days

. . .

Wangechi Mutu_Day 62_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 62_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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 blindess
or murram roads
or bad humoured fields that hoard curses
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?
.

Wangechi Mutu_Day 64_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 64_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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 you 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

Wangechi Mutu_Day 70_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 70_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 71_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 71_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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 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?

Wangechi Mutu_Day 72_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 72_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 73_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Day 73_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

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?

 

. . .

 

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/kwibuka20?source=feed_text&story_id=624576410970511

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Days 76 – 100:

https://zocalopoets.com/2014/05/01/the-rwanda-genocide-twenty-years-later-100-days-of-photographs-poems-by-wangechi-mutu-and-juliane-okot-bitek/