SINGING, RWANDA, 2016
They sang at dawn, mustering for work,
then, single file, marching to the swamps, with machetes.
They sing on Sundays, now, in Kigali Prison’s church.
They worked through daylight, partied after dark.
They sang while searching through papyrus reeds.
They sang on soccer fields, preparing for work.
They sand during gang rapes, and they cursed
those too old, sick, or broken to run or plead.
They sing, now, in the evenings, at Gitarama Prison’s church.
Some victims begged, Please, shoot me! Much worse,
three days it takes to die as machete limbs bleed
out. they sang at dusk walking home from work.
Marshes turned pink where victims bled, sick with thirst.
Terror turned mud, shit, and sky to winding sheets.
I heard them now, full-throated in Rilima Prison’s church.
Eager children and dogs helped the search –
Nyamata, Ntarama, Gisenyi, Kigali, Murambi…
They sang at dawn mustering for work.
And now at dusk In Rilima Prison’s church.
ANDREW KAUFMAN’s first book, The Cinnamon Bay, won the Center for Book Arts competition and was followed by Earth’s Ends, winner of the Pearl Poetry Award. An NEA Grant winner, his work has appeared or is scheduled to appear, in numerous journals, such as The Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Bitter Oleander, Carolina Quarterly, Confrontation, Massachusetts Review, Skidrow Penthouse, the Spoon River Poetry Review and Terminus. His most recent book of poetry, The Rwanda Poems: Voices and Visions of the Genocide, is due out in the spring of 2021 from New York Quarterly Books. The Cemeteri, the Hours and Mrs. Death, A book of poems co-translated from the Catalan of Salvador Espriu, is expected out later in 2021 from Song Bridge Press.