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’.