Aftermath: A Photographic Exhibit of Female Survivors of the Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda
For Jonathan and Jules
I face the woman in the photograph
framed on the white wall,
tall like Tutsi women are
(the radio ordered cut down the tall trees),
her body shrouded in a yellow shawl,
her thin arm draped across the shoulder
of her son, whose wide white eyes
are staring through the camera.
A thirtysomething woman
is standing to my right, cropped blond hair,
bloodred lipstick, short black dress,
clinging to her boyfriend’s arm.
I read the text below the photograph:
the son was born of rape,
the rape went on for days,
she blanked out after the first day,
she couldn’t love her son
when he was born, but now she does.
My head hurts.
I’m tired and I’m hungry.
The thirtysomething woman is watching
her boyfriend eyeing someone else.
In her world the greatest threat is being left
for someone younger, prettier, thinner.
It’s my world too.
Who am I to feel superior?
The text reports that the rapists and the killers
are now living in the Congo. (continued)
(Auerbach, Aftermath…, page 2, stanza continued)
I face the fact that my world is here,
and hers, the woman in the photograph, is there.
The thirtysomething woman
is leaving with her boyfriend.
She is safe another day.
It’s late. I have to work tomorrow.
I leave too. I sign the petition
at the exit, pledge a contribution.
What else can I do?
What else is there to do?