Monday, July 31, 2006

Recreations of a Past

From time to time, I write poetry. Whether or not I write well is immaterial to me--I write poetry because I like the economy of form that poetry requires. A poet must select words just so--choosing the most evocative word to describe the subject.
I wrote the poem that follows in 1981 as an attempt to understand my childhood.
Recreations of a past

Always when in my eye
I see Africa
I see greygreentan
Khaki tinged
Garnished with a
Splash of brilliant red
A fireball rainborn from cracked ground?
A bleeding sunset?
Or Zulu life
Slow seeping out for white supremacy?

The fringings of that recollected picture
Strobe flashes of landscape
Africa—seen through jeep window—
Trees that some god
With artistic hand drew
In quick horizontal strokes
Glimpses of kudu
And delicate duiker leaping
(As my heart now in remembrance)


They say
“So, you grew up in Africa
What was it like?”
As though in one word
The whole essence of
A place is caught


Why did they go?
Those straight backed missionaries
With dark flowing clothes
Pith helmets, Bibles, soap & monogamy
(To cement my heritage—
Third generation in an alien land?)


The caught time is Zambia
In the afternoon
Stretched eternally over that sky—
Unworldly blue with flicked
White clouds—
Same sky reaching down into the hills
Which fall away from the mission station
A manufactured point of civilization
Whitewashed and dropped
Into that infinitude.


(Why did I not learn
That Tonga lesson
Exorcizing the demons
But I—I cannot
Rid my soul of the demon
Of Africa)
What happened in eight short years
To rivet me?


This past is mine
Going back I touch,
Make links with things I cannot see

How did is feel
Standing by the grave of the sister you never saw
Born and died
Before you were conceived
How did it look
That strange small clump of African earth
Heaped over her bones
In sweet repose
Dead fingers still clutching
One moldy rose
What communion with your past
Transpires when you honor
Her whom you never knew?


And it was the rich rain
Which destroyed the beauty of
The parched earth
Ah—the rainy season
We said
As we sat on our veranda
And watched
The torrents draw
Needle curtains across the sky
(How could they know—
Those missionaries—
The delicate balance
Of parched earth and rain?
One more drop drowns)


I smooth the dark auburn earth
With my child hand
Clearing it for my imprint.
But no sketching follows
Only filigreed tracings of a past
All woven up with the solemn
Morbidity of self-introspection.


It does no good to wonder
Or listen—earcupped—for the rumblings
Of the gods bouncing around granite hills
Like the howling of baboons
Uttering the oracular deliverance of truth.
There is only the rush of a curved question
Marking the edge of the world.

By Donna F. W.
© 1981

1 comment:

kris said...

Wonderful- thank you for sharing, Mom.