Poetry

Prayer for Kinshasa

 A white Mercedes crunches in the dehydrated dirt:

 Papa Wemba songs waft from the window,

where my casual elbow rests.

I am the hero.

My sunglasses shield my eyes, but I watch them –

the patient pilgrims that snake around the village waiting for me.

Some have come by foot, some by pirog;

braving the stare of hippos along the Congo.  

The barefooted cluster run to the car,

banging the bonnet in a percussion of joy.

‘Ya Godé! Ya Godé!’

Maman!

I am home at last.

 

Sleep ends.

I am back in the European cool, the white comfort.

My mother’s face, on fire with pride, stays with me.

A patterned panne wraps her frail, brown body,

holding her together at the seams.

Each year I am here, she is closer to death,

living still in the shell

of a home;

a concrete box, smooth and bare.

My photo hangs in the kitchen;

next to a crucifix.

We both receive her daily prayers.

I am the way, the truth and the light.

They wait for me to end this eternal poverty.

 

Lord, God, I beg you –

Let there be light.

And electricity.

Let there be rivers.

And running water.

Let there be yielding seed.

And food.

Let there be a genesis of good.

On the Sabbath they will rest,

with bellies full and spirits blessed.

Provide all I take for granted in this world of excess.

Give them more instead of less.

Give me the money to save them; then

the Mercedes.

Amen.

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