Cianga

portrait of Lubumbashi, DRC

        \feces soil a sad attempt at a sidewalk

        \a missionary brings Jesus on a coltan-rich phone

        \everyone’s broke, but no one’s poor enough to die

        \a rat boards a rocket that erupts, in the name of science

        \a cardboard box can sing, in the right hands

        \there’s too much rain for anything to be permanent 

        \The sun is Lubumbashi’s defensive architect

        \cities don’t cry when it rains

        \cities cry through the blood of children

(ask why all this foreign aid can’t fix the smile off a skull)

(ask why the most violent killer in DRC is a child)

        /all Congolese got beef with some white man 

        /i’m no different

        /i’m not really mad, i’m just broke

        /my skin still shrinks when i see a dog fed a child’s survival

        /in a city this big, family is whoever remembers you smiling

        /a memory is dangerous when left in a cardboard box 

        /a cardboard box is a machete that hasn’t grown up yet

        /a cardboard box is a home

        /a city of cardboard boxes is a graveyard

 

psalm for the 15 million

                                                      want is a terrifying verb.
                                                                       /
need is more familiar. clawed grip. dagger nails. slow crawl ’cross. crimson soil. cobalt fingerprints.
                                                                       /
there’s a rhythm to survival. tempo in the snap back growl tongue. halt. no one survives out of want.
                                                                       /
i had to. papa says. bang head swing airborne slam soil. i had to. no one dies ’cause they lack want.
                                                                       /
from fear. consequent to desire. moyo wa jingi. Yakash’ yells. my spirit burns. this is a cruel song.
                                                                       /
to cry. and cry and cry. and cry. and despair. and fold. and cry. and yell. weak grip. yell and yell
                                                                       /
’cause the voice box is so well-protected. it dies last. oh lord. unlike a body. a spirit can burn twice.

                                                                       /
once. Zaire made a hymn of want. look how that ended. 15 million spirits. for them. music is a prayer.
                                                                       /
to flesh and teeth and uniforms and God to pray out of despair. to pray to the sole of a shoe. to plead.
                                                                      /
no one seeks accountability. accountability implies permanence.
                                                                      /
no one. gets away with murder by staying.
                                                                      /
unwillingly. i sleep and awake. burning. na li’ y a nani. to sing oh to sing with parched stubbornness 
                                                                      /
to sing out of need. to sing. unlike anything. the voice box is so well-protected. it outlives the spirit. 
                                                                      /
moyo wa jingi. in want. for cobalt. crimson. yellow ochre. colors best painted on sky and ocean. stay.
                                                                      /
brother. work a piano. like it’s made of 15 million. Notes.        amen.
                                                                      /
kinshasa. burn. the first monolith found in Africa.         amen.
                                                                      /
the soil is trying. and we are. patient. clay here is edible.        amen.
                                                                      /
psalms are made. from need. music is made. from want. how terrifying. 
                                                                      /
a spirit can burn and laugh in the same prayer. not sure why. not sure anyone chooses to be alive
                                                                      /
the way they need. to breathe. to breathe air and mold and carbon and gasp water. in place of air.
                                                                      /
to need air and beg. oh lord. i made my bed. i had to. there’s an ocean that believes in my commitment.
                                                                      /
oh god. this burning. so feral. this survival. outlives the tallest clef.
                                                                      /
hell. music hath no fury. like a c#minor. sung. by a band of warriors. defending their want. stubbornly. 
                                                                      /
not sure it’s a good thing. to burn for so long. nothing that lasts forever. lasts forever ’cause it’s good.
                                                                      /
not sure. a soul is worth every second. its borrowed sleeve. allows. sure. papa had enough potential.
                                                                      /
enough want. to be more than treble. surely. like hell. this desire. unsheathes a machete. to live.
                                                                      /
quenched soil.
                                                                      /
singing spirit.
                                                                      /
this wanting.
                                                                      /
for life. to want. and want. so dense. oh god. i want and want with dagger nails. crawl taut. moyo wani.
                                                                      /
i burned the monolith. and its maker. and spit. a choir.

Cianga is a Congolese multimedia artist, based in California. Cia began their art career with spoken word poetry, where they competed nationally and won multiple competitions including Oakland Poetry Slam’s 2018 Grand Slam Finals and Berkeley Fiction Review’s Sudden Fiction contest. They then went on to join UC Berkeley’s Arts and Research Center as a 2020 Poetry Fellow. Cia’s work engages with themes of diaspora, mental health and joy as radical resistance. For more of their work, including visual art, check out cianga.com.