At first light
Africa is like our souls
Long dark green hills
Loping into a distance
Which can’t be measured.
Alive like nothing we have met before
And longed to meet.
The pounding of small delicate hooves
Echoing the pounding of the heart
We travel never reaching there
Those colors dependent on a distance
We never find ourselves inside
The singular color that lies on the hills
Reflects from the sky.
Green velvet curves
Mounting from the labial pinks of flamingo lakes
Lifting ragged edges
that meet and subtly defy
The horizon before they melt into the sky.
We stop in villages along the way
Stricken into poverty by the distance of that light
Those unattainable greens.
The reality of roads and the lines marked on our maps
Fail to coincide
Except that passing through these places a thread,
Woven out of colors that defy a name, remains,
Etched upon the eye.
The road becomes, wherever is traveled
Ruts that decline into mud in the rainy season
Quiver in the heat in the dry.
So we feel our footprints as something merely left behind
Left to go their own way after we pass by
In my sleep they come back to me as vague outlines
Walking the bush with longing and my dreams.
And this is travel
This is the soul
That we can never reach.
The wildebeest with lowered head
That gentle waves smooth softly from the beach,
Those villages, those tongues like music
Resist our understanding.
The distances we cannot reach.
There are strange voices in the bush at night
Savage beasts cry out our names
Spirit familiars call to us
In languages that aspire
To somehow lift us higher
A syntax to persuade, implore or scream
Birds in gaudy plumage fly through these dreams
In something like a tapestry,
The fields of beasts pass in a moving stream
Like thoughts, birds rise and heavily take wing
From dreaming lakes.
Facing off with a young lion
The wildebeest dips his head and fakes…
And the beating of our hearts becomes one
With the pounding of delicate hooves upon the green
In the mornings we try hard to awaken
Eat fried eggs and grilled bread with margarine
The faint hint of kerosene
Haunts these explorations of cuisine
And taints the tea
And taints the ubiquitous warm milk or cream…
Behind it all there is a restless rolling beat
A rhythm in every village
In every city street
And the bright smiles that flash through
Like joyful trumpet notes
Cutting through what looks like misery
Lay our personal poverty bare
And those smiles make you feel that
Maybe for the first time
You are really home
And on the peak of Kilimanjaro at dawn
You can almost see Zanzibar
And you realize you have really been alone
We travel and plan
And change our plans,
Roads play tricks on us, facts change
Changing what we understand.
In sleep I still can feel,
Those green hills loping into distances which can’t be measured
the strange stars like a shuttle,
stitching day and night together
I feel my soul, like those villages
Stricken into poverty
By the riches of the long, long, light
Which dreams take and weave together
With unnamed shades of green and gold,
into untold treasure
Africa is like our soul
We can never really leave it
And yet can never quite go back
And in long nights the memories come down
The long beaten old safari caravan tracks…
And every morning these unraveled threads of sleep
These old trails and roads
Weave themselves into each new day
And once you’ve really been in Africa
You can never really go away.
In the end,
when you cut to the bone,
Africa is where we all come from
And where we all come home.
In the end you realize
Africa really is your soul
Something you must finally come to own.