Monday, March 12, 2007

Before I Sleep in Africa

Before I sleep in Africa, I set aside Mau Mau.
Zulu. Saturday matinees where Tarzan meets
Jane and reasonable men in pith helmets,
crazed by heat and quicksand and the lion’s roar,
tame a dark continent. “Dr. Livingstone. I…”
but, you know the rest.

Before I feel African sun, I let go stories
from years gone by. Hemingway. Lessing.
Dinesen and Van der Post. Teddy Roosevelt,
our very own Great White Hunter. Adventures
on the page, on the screen, in the flesh,
but mostly, in black-and-white.

Before I walk African soil, I shed my leather
shoes. Trace the steps of Jane Goodall. Dian
Fossey. Albert Schweitzer. My generation went
into Operation Crossroads. The Peace Corps.
Here I am, dogged visionary from the ‘60’s,
still hopeful, still yearning.

Before I hear the voices of Africa, I think Nelson
Mandela. Biafra. Rwanda. Soweto.
Somalia. Darfur. Chad and De Beers.
Soldiers in black boots with automatic weapons.
Ordinary people in everyday life. Will I hear
children, laughing?

Before I go to Africa, I ask, what went wrong
in this place where humanity has lived longest?
Malaria. AIDS. Water. Refugees. I wonder
if – after Africa – will I come to know poverty
and colonial legacies and maybe, just maybe,
glimpse why we are here at all.

4 comments:

chris said...

I have chills after reading this. I love the mood. It's one of the best pieces I've ever read from you. Kudos!

Meg said...

Could this be a point of connection? I love the way you weave so much history into this poem.

Rina said...

You write very well.

gretchen said...

Thank you so much for your comments. Gretchen