Kin La Belle

A detail from Daniela Yohannes (UK/Guadeloupe), Black Oil (2019), Acrylic on Linen, 116 X 89 cm / Courtesy of Addis Fine Art

We pause at the edge of the river
listen to its rhythms
languid like lingala
how the waves lap at our feet
tickle our soles
move them to move
then retreat, a soft shuffle
cha cha
isn’t skin membrane
as a line in the blues
the river has a bone
asking us to remember
Kin la belle
or revolution?
The all-powerful warrior
who because of his endurance and inflexible will to win
goes from conquest to conquest
leaving fire in his wake.
These songs caught in its currents
ripple to the shore
sediment we ingest in our pores
efface the edges of water flesh memory—

Gathondu Mwangi is a geography PhD student and writer who spends his time between Massachusetts and Kenya, his home country. He enjoys listening to Congolese rumba, the inspiration for this poem. His work has previously appeared in The Fourth River, Kalahari Review, and Kwani?.