The slash of red of cardinals playing in the snow,
Conflicts with memories of the Africa I know.
My mind drifts away from winters cold and cruel,
To summers where the bright sun is the fuel
That fires the growth of grass and fever trees,
Egret perches, and where giraffe can feed with ease.
In a world of snow and slush, I cannot smell,
Like I could where in the land I used to dwell.
The sweet scent of first rain on arid earth
That brings the flying ants to end the dearth
Of food for fiscal shrikes and swallows,
Who swoop the swarms as oft as daylight allows.
There is another scent, offensive as it seems
At first brings back memories of acrid smoke and beams
Of light piercing the thatch of mud hut roof,
To show cold embers on the floor, the proof
Of fires that cooked pots of meal and cobs of corn.
These are the scents of that far land where I was born.
In a land heavily covered in a carpet of snow,
Sounds are muffled and seldom grow
To match the sounds from that place afar,
Like the sad call of the road squatting night jar
And call of the weaver, baby eaten by a snake, and bereft.
These are the sights, the sounds and smells of the land I left.
The Witch doctor
He is old, so very old, his wrinkled skin appears not to fit,
But hangs on withered limbs like the wings of a bat, moonlit
In the dying light of day as the ancient one sits before his fire,
And tends to those who seek his help in matters dire.
He is dressed in clothes old and creased, a simango skin hat,
skirt of monkey tails andon his arms bracelets, the fur of civet cat.
In his hand he shakes his wand topped by a rattle of pinecones
As on the sandy floor he throws the bones and coloured stones.
Through rheumy eyes he gazes down and to his ancestors calls,
For help to read what lies before him, when bones from his fingers fall.
From a ragged drawstring pouch the old man takes a pinch of dust,
And into the flickering flames of his fire the magic powder is thrust.
The faces across the fire see visions dancing before their very eyes,
Ancestors there to reach them through the witchdoctor’s cries.
At last, the fire dies and the old man is tired of reading people’s minds
And the wishes and desires of those now dead, that left them behind.
Rhyme of Africa
I see the wet tracks across the mud down to the water side
And beyond the reeds a Mesozoic head leaves a wake wide.
Two steely eyes are glued on the body of the target meal,
An unsuspecting, struggling young wildebeest who will not deal
With wide, wide jaw, razor like row of teeth and body that will turn
Its prey and then, dive with it to underwater cave of no return
The deed is done, and the river resumes its slow and gentle flow
Past the hippos hiding from the overhead sun’s unremitting glow.
High above a slowly moving shape passes menacingly above,
An eagle that, from its height, can see the pair of mourning doves,
And then diverts to dive down on the surface swimming bream
To sink its talons into the fish, a catch so fast and yet so clean.
Not far from the ribbon of tree lined water, a pride of lions has fed
And sated, lie beneath the thorn dressed fever tree, dry grass their bed.
Not far away a noisy fight proceeds to own the remnants of the kill
Left by the lions, faces bloody, distended bellies who have had their fill.
The fighters are the hyenas, front line cleaners of the bush, and beyond
Them the vultures and hopeful jackal snapping a scrap in just a second.
Far from the flow of life-giving water, the soil is cracked and dry, the grass
Is stiff and brown to stay like that until the first rain comes to pass,
Heralded by lightning streaks that flash across the sky and dance upon
The kopjes’ rocks where the leopard used to live, but now has gone.
The rain has now stopped falling and the gazelles jump up and down
Knowing that in just a few days, the grass will be like a meadow newly sown.
All along the branches of the trees, tiny green shoots appear between the thorns,
Harbingers of good times to come when a sudden floral birth the veld adorns.
Zebras, impala and delicate Thompson’s gazelles, bodies newly flesh refined,
Come together to pro-create, to ensure a brand-new generation of their kind.
This ensures that Old Africa is renewed and can, through time eternal, move
From generation to generation and always be the land we will always love