By: Cynthia Kangeyo


Nineteen ninety four


Mil Novecientos noventa y cuatro

It doesn’t matter which language I say it

It still bears the weight of 800,000 corpses on my tongue

It still bears the weight of just one


They came with the force of a thousand seas

Their waves of violence crashed between you and me

I come to this world a spitting image of you

I laugh, I smile, I walk just like you

Then that terrible number resurfaces again,


We should have swam away until our muscles were sore

Because sore is better than dead

Dead is better than a machete to my fathers brilliant head

The head of a family vanished without a trace

Vivid memories in my mother’s head that I can’t erase

Can you call them memories if they hurt just as much today?

Yesterday we danced, you drank, you laughed

Today I put back the bones of a father that passed

Decomposed but tattooed in my veins

I wish I could have inhaled your last words, could have swallowed them like food to eat

A souvenir for me to keep

Genocide, Ge-no-ci-de

My jaw locks trying to pronounce it

I swallow the word, but it goes down like rocks

Makes my teeth jagged and sharp


Must be what the first world says occurs to the uncivilized

Africa, a continent still paralyzed

Because there is so much blood a land can bleed

Until it begins to like the taste and needs to feed

This is not a political poem

So pay attention to my words

This is about a father, a mother, and their only daughter

Kind of like Goldie Locks

But without her pretty curly locks

There is no clicking your heels at the end of this story

Just water-stained photographs, there is no war glory

There is no happy return to home

That life changing call on the telephone

To tell me you are okay, alive and breathing

No letter to announce our homecoming meeting

So I put my head back on the pillow

Hoping that my emotions can settle somewhere in the middle

Somewhere in the middle of forgiving but not forgetting

Somewhere in the middle of living without you but living for you



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