The plane was called Wings of the Morning.
It used fuel to be found only in Uganda.
It was tiny, like a toy, but one said nothing of this
to the pilot, who was the son
of the bishop in Kamina. Wings of the Morning
took its name from a psalm,
guarding us with a promise from an ancient past.
We rode low. Over tails of dust from trucks
on the one northbound road. Above towns made of thatch.
Farmers hoeing their ground, quilts of cantaloupe and cassava,
patches small enough to be planted by hand.
Looking up at our passing. Our course
took us over a tree lined river, crisscrossing
the heart of this part of Congo, unseen
by the farmers though they knew it was there,
but from the air heavy, slow moving, twisting like a boa.
A congregation at the airstrip
prayed and sang in Ki-Swahili, and smiled at us.
Their prayers carried us back through calm air.
Long afterward, in my room in the Congo night
or home, at last, I could hear their sounds,
familiar and clear as psalms; as impenetrable and divine
as the river’s oily strand.
Ki-Luba mask, found at Lubumbashi, DRC, July 2006 (Photo: Linda Beher)