A Vase of Flowers

by Isabella Mead

after Louis MacNeice
 
There is an abundant flower across Rwanda:
large white chalices that hang from branches
facing downwards, towards the earth.
 
Maybe a sweet perversity of nature,
perhaps a fear of what the valley might show
or conjecture that bees would not be interested.
 
Too heavy to stir at footfalls of children
or the steady descent of a bull, they hold themselves
still, like frozen tears or silent bells.
 
Once, my umukozi pulled a few
and stood them in an empty blue Pringles tube:
a centrepiece for guests.
 
Children stood on tiptoes at the window
for a glimpse of the funny caricature
of the round-faced man with the thick brown beard
 
from a country where flowers never hide.
The man beamed back across more than just
soundless flowers turned wrong-side up.

Umukozi = housekeeper