Shakespeare Season

by Isabella Mead

Rwanda, April 1994

The red dust road opens out to a schoolhouse
where banana trees spread purple flowers
unfurling sunlight, ready to fruit.

In rough-cut classrooms the Hutu children
sing praises to Imana under orders.
The Tutsi children have been sent outside

and stare in silence beyond the yard
through pink angel-trumpets and yellow mimosas
at another classroom where Seniors

scratch down verses in exercise books
the same umber glow as the First Folio.
They picture balconies, learn that a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.
The sunlight sharpens. A gecko settles.
In a few hours the April rains will come,

the flowers will loll, and Romeo bawl,
curl from candlelight into a corner
of a marble portico, sob in the dark

for a message a servant couldn’t send;
a stifled UN base in Kigali
will try the New York headquarters again;

there will be no space for new messages
on the answerphone; the schoolhouse will curl
and wilt and blur with the red dust road.

 
‘Imana’ means ‘God’.