Feast of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions,

2011

When is peace a peace that means something of lasting

significance? Is peace the absence of in-your-face-in-every-

village-every-day-every-other-day carnage? With the

living dead left along the road by the living fleeing? With

the dead left to bury themselves or be picked apart bit by

bit by ravenous songbirds?

Is peace only peace after the ‘keepers’ of peace go away?

There is calm this year in this part of Masisi.

Yesterday, I watched army ants devour a discarded

avocado.

Today, I helped to build a shelter out of recycled scrap

from the old bombed-out buildings. This shelter is for

mothers working the monastery’s fields with their infants.

Today, while collecting rocks and bits of bricks,

I found half of a human bone, from an arm or a leg.

I am no expert. The old monk with me told me so.

It weighed nothing in my hand. Porous. Bleached clean.

And I placed it at the bottom of a hole I had dug out for

a post support, and pounded bits of quartz and brick and

dirt down hard on top of it.

Some say upwards of seven hundred refugees who had

survived Rwanda and that genocide were butchered two

years later in the basement of this abbey here. The cement

is still stained dirty red. Machetes.

I dug my postholes with a machete today. A versatile tool.

Yesterday, I leveled out a foundation, from the side of a

hill, for this shelter for the women, using a hoe.

I then took a walk

under the pines

out to the monks’

burial grounds.

The cemetery has been cut out from the pasture by a red

hedge of aging poinsettias.

No tombs.

No stones.

No names.

No dates.

Nada, nada, nada…

Just—

a flower garden with worms

and bits of bones about

six feet under.

There—

without my camera,

with no one to share

the moment,

I looked for something

to hold me tight.

Beyond—

the pine needles clutching

haggard limbs,

cotton clouds climbed

into towers

of orange and

rose-white.

I dragged my walking

stick all the way home.

Past column after column

of ants on the march.

At war with the world.

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