Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power

By Haki Madhubuti b. 1942 Haki Madhubuti
Who has the moral high ground?

Fifteen blocks from the whitehouse
on small corners in northwest, d.c.
boys disguised as me rip each other’s hearts out
with weapons made in china. they fight for territory.

across the planet in a land where civilization was born
the boys of d.c. know nothing about their distant relatives
in Rwanda. they have never heard of the hutu or tutsi people.
their eyes draw blanks at the mention of kigali, byumba
or butare. all they know are the streets of d.c., and do not
cry at funerals anymore. numbers and frequency have a way
of making murder commonplace and not news
unless it spreads outside of our house, block, territory.

modern massacres are intraethnic. bosnia, sri lanka, burundi,
nagorno-karabakh, iraq, laos, angola, liberia, and rwanda are
small foreign names on a map made in europe. when bodies
by the tens of thousands float down a river turning the water
the color of blood, as a quarter of a million people flee barefoot
into tanzania and zaire, somehow we notice. we do not smile,
we have no more tears. we hold our thoughts. In deeply
muted silence looking south and thinking that today
nelson mandela seems much larger
than he is.

Haki Madhubuti, “Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power” from Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems © 1969 by Haki R. Madhubuti. Used by permission of Third World Press, Chicago, IL.

Source: Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems (Third World Press, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Haki Madhubuti b. 1942

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

 Haki  Madhubuti

Biography

Born Donald Luther Lee in Little Rock, Arkansas, the poet adopted the Swahili name Haki R. Madhubuti after traveling to Africa in 1974. As he shared in a 2006 interview, he sensed that “a new African name would help me in arriving at a final definition of self.” Haki means “justice” and Madhubuti means “precise, accurate, and dependable.”

Madhubuti received an MFA from the University of Iowa and served in the army from 1960 to . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.