For Pierre Nkurunziza: Poems by Samson Nyarima

Image: Khalid Albaih

Image: Khalid Albaih

For Pierre Nkurunziza
(Burundi, 2015)

The people you yearn to lead
Are burning tar
Off the highways
Dying by the dozens
Disappearing in the night
Your batons and boots
To soft flesh, muscle
And bone;
Their voice scuttled,
Their thinking muzzled,
They choke
From the yoke
Of your known career
And wonder why you
Can’t see your steward-
Ship, leak!
The people you plan to lead
Trash your
Image and curse
Your name!


Two Slaves

We needed him
So he had to learn to stare at his feet
When the boss-daughter walked by;
To cow him, we lashed
And chained, he stands
(In the picture of the work gang
Hanging in the hallway)

He earned a limp or some deformity
That would identify him any day
And he learnt a hymnal or two
For the occasional thanks to
His maker (for how else
Would he escape his relative’s fate?)

We need her,
So we chain her at will
Confiscate her documents
(These people do not know the value
Of these things)

Initially her peanuts,
Amid fawning and a myriad thanks
From tongues with twisted accents
We remit…
And when the lashes and
‘Exercises’ overwhelm
The river carries the weight
Of such burdens off
The face of the earth
(Ours is a kind and forgiving god)



I have many images of you
Your hair, short as of a girl
In an autocratic mission
Head slightly inclined,
Eyes caught in the horizon
The weight of decision on them
How your pupils float
Like a child’s kite on motionless
Air, falling,
Without seeming to fall,
Of your left hand on your chin and
Of your third finger without the ring
That now stains it,
That now chains you,
The pleat-skirt
That gave you that beautiful,
Rural innocence
And that smile,
Long in coming, bursting like
A million little rays spreading sublime
Sunshine- vivid, warm, caressing-
And the single sensation caught
In this eternal memory-
I remember


Poems © Samson Nyarim
Image: Khalid Albaih

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