This excerpt comes from Juliane Okot Bitek's first published collection is 100 Days. It is a poetic, painful countdown that both pays tribute to and records the horrific Rwandan genocide. It was originally part of a public loose collaboration with Wangechi Mutu, on Facebook.
If this should be a list of betrayals where should we begin?
At last, we’re here
At last, we’re gone
What is this life beyond one hundred days?
What is this life beyond one hundred days, twenty times over?
What days are left?
We were already in medias res
We were always inside one hundred days
It was sunrise every morning
It was the same land
The same sky
The same rivers, hills, valleys
It was the same road that led away and back home
Same sweet air that amplified the voices through whispers, gossip, airwaves
Words leapt into our eyes and burned this new knowledge that was never new
But it was the earth that betrayed us first
In those one hundred days that would never end
It was the earth that betrayed us first.
It was the earth that held on to its beauty, compelling us to return.
It was the breezes that were there, and then they were not there.
It was the sun that rose and fell, rose and fell, as if there was nothing different: as if nothing changed.
Juliane Okot Bitek is a doctoral candidate at the University of British Columbia and a Liu scholar at the Liu Institute for Global Issues. Her latest book of poetry, 100 Days is published by the University of Alberta Press. Her dissertation looks at the impact of forgetting on citizenship. She lives and loves in Vancouver, Canada.