for Ssenono Vicent (9/1984 - 9/2003)
If I could choose, if it was possible, if I was worthy, if babies homes werenít crowded
if aunts and grandparents werenít overburdened and I could take it all back
to the point where no man had sinned, I would rather be an angel than a saint.
I would rather float close to God and close to men than be canonized by men.
Iím dying and I see a light, Iím dying and I see my creator, Iím dying
and the heat which fills my veins finally calls my lifelong bluffing
and I leave. Lifeís been so long in coming and so quick in going — somewhere between
watching my parents turn hollow and smelling the rainy season come on again
and again life must have happened because now itís stopping and I canít find
the part where life happened at all. Once, madam was explaining a sonnet and the turns
it can take at the end and the tensions its form carries and I thought my life is less sonnet
and more rhymed couplet — beginning, it is nearly done and ending, it is still being propelled.
My lantern is fading, my coal is cooling. I want to leave this world and find another,
not stay remembered here where only Ugandans would notice me looking out
from prayer cards. Theyíll pray and Iíll have to be the mendicant for their
eyelid lesions and pointed ribs, their mouth sores, night sweats, and patching hair;
so let me be an angel, let me watch again from above. Iíll stop begging and
start living; please give it up, please give me up, please — I want to go and meet them —
the saints I prayed to, the angels who watched over me, the God who made me
in his image. I want to see if he has shrunken muscles, too and know if his mouth
grows dry in the night so he wakes swollen and cracking. I want this heat, this choice.