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!’
I am home at last.
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.
Let there be rivers.
And running water.
Let there be yielding seed.
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