“like Kumalo” by Rita Bouvier

(on re-reading Cry, My Beloved Country by Alan Patton [1958], on the eve of reconciliation in Canada)

like Kumalo        she travels at dusk
up a rocky winding road to a mountaintop.
there     nestled among the trees and shrubs
she can see clearly
below her and far into the horizon.

solitude and silence are enough to weather
this brokenness—this weariness—this hunger
she wrestles day and night
night and day.
never ending.

like Kumalo     she hopes
no one is on the path tonight     to ask questions
worried     her brother will not survive.
but    it isn’t just her brother
there are so many others        just like him.

her mother the good mother she is
always was and always will be
will have prayed in the quiet afternoon
when work was done.
her mother still believes.
bless her.

like Kumalo           she has failed in her own agency
he as ayimihawinew          she as okiskinahamakew
words she knows carry a sacred responsibility.
one    a devotion to a life of prayer
the other     to teach with future generations in mind.

in the growing darkness      acahkosak shining upon her              angel-stars
she waits to be swallowed
into a world she once knew
where waves quietly
lap rocks on the shoreline
a soft breeze rustles
leaves of poplar and birch nearby
and moonlight ripples
diamonds on the lake.

there     on the mountaintop
she will wait for rain
its soft and gentle caress
to wash away the pain and sorrow
as a rite of renewal       as forgiveness
as hope for this   her beloved country.

in the morning    her eyes clouded like Kumalo
she will arise with the sun
slowly making her way
to the village          still   in darkness below.
light will glow soon enough.

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