Incident At Sakina

                 (An Arusha Story)

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 I’m deep in the music, lost in the sound,

 foot beating the time, fingers playing the strings,

 that sing their soft song of f sharp to d,

 the notes in between, that lingering e.

 then came a shriek, then the screams, a quick rush of feet, 

 beneath the blue sky, through the green of the trees, 

 then a silence as loud as a lioness’ roar,

 that froze my fingers right on the edge, 

 heart pounding, just listening, to shouts, to loud moans ,

 the running of feet, the noise of a crowd,

 then me running too, from door to the gate,

 to that scatter of rags that lay on the road,

 where we gathered in awe of the presence of  death;

‘mangoes, that’s what she sold,’ 

‘she was so old, and so poor’

‘the car came haraka,’

‘he came at her fast, and disappeared quick’, 

‘thrown high in the air.

 ‘like a leaf on the wind,”

“pole sana, so sorry’

“sikitika,”so sad,’

“vipi, dada? Unasaema?”

‘what’s up sister, you say what’

“ay mbali sana,, ay very bad.’

‘hey what’s up with her brother?’

 “just dead, man, ala, this old Maasai,

 ‘twende, let’s go, look, forget it my brother,

 ‘life is too short and we gotta go,”

  so they left, the crying, the wailing, 

  the blood  pooled at our feet

  as women pushed past me, then the police,

  all dressed in white and very polite,

  then we all turned away, to carry on life,

  without gods, a purpose, 

  to face out own fate.

An Angry Wind Is Coming

( A warning from the grave)

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An angry wind whips the trees, tears the leaves,

Claws them down, throws them up,

Then beats them through the air-Enraged,

So angry mobs like storms will come,

Upon the ones who reign ,

Who love, like flies, decay and death-

We know them from their stench,

The miseries they have made-

But what will be, this angry mob,

Of the left, or of the right,

A million Che Guevara’s or Mussolini’s spawn,

Bred in beds of ignorance and lousy with their hate,

Bringing worse upon us still, and with an iron fist?

The storm has come upon us, there’s thunder in the air,

Zola, now is never read, Neruda is reviled,

Saramago showed the Blindness, Sinclair, the Jungle of their kind,

Capital is forgotten and all the truth therein,

Where are they our heroes, when now we need them more?

Mac The Knife is back in power and works in dark of night,

And where are you my comrades, are you on the barricades,

Or wrapped in sad, self-pity, in doubt of what you are,

Caring more for you and yours, and less for us and ours?

An angry wind is coming, so get your selves prepared,

Be warned, and act, my comrades, or end up on your knees.

 

October Is Upon Us

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October is upon us and soon November’s dreary days,

As if the days of June were dreams, its promises a haze,

The leaves descend and swirl about, in yellow, orange, red,

While clouds hang low in moody skies, and old folk seek their bed,

A voice calls out and asks for tea, as day leads into night,

Footsteps pass the windowsill, of children, out of sight,

Calling up old memories, of that day you held my hand,

Walking on the riverbank, or listening to the band,

That played their weekly concert, and made us all so smile,

We felt the urge to dance again, and did so, for a while,

Made pledges we could never keep, no matter how we tried,

For other clouds soon gathered and I crossed the ocean wide,

Our letters stopped, our lives went on, as if we’d never been,

And now, I hear this winter, will be one we’ve never seen.

In Winter, A Riff On Sappho

(An improvisation on the only known fragment of a poem by Sappho, “In Winter,…)

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If not winter, then can summer be,

The welcoming sun, the greening tree,

The playful stream, skipping to sea,

If not death, where then is life,

The joys, the sorrows, the saddening strife,

Words of wisdom that cut like a knife,

If not you, then, what then am I,

But a question, a query, a what or a why,

Everyone’s stranger, just passing by.

Where Last We Met

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Where last we met was a shallowing stream,

And over it’s course leaned a wise oak tree,

And all seemed well, as though in a dream,

Yet there, again, we never would be.

Passers-by now feel a deep sombre mood,

As though a sad spectre, lonely, there stands,

Longing for her, the one he once wooed

With talk of the seas, and far travelled lands.

Some hear a whisper, as if called out to stop,

Others see phantasms floating through leaves,

From which drip tears, drop after drop,

As if Nature for Love and lovers bereaves;

Some see a shadow man rising to reach for the hand,

Of the woman who waits, as if unaware,

Haunted and haunting in a dark ghostly land,

Few stay there for long, for few wish to dare.

But I see a place, now barren, decayed, 

Of a life torn apart, it now seems to me,

And though all seemed well, as once in a dream,

It is where, again, we never can be.

The Dying Of The Age

Their voices distant sing to tunes,

Of laughter, love, surprise,

While fireflies softly sink, and rise,

On light of tragic moons,

But, nearer still, the empty sounds,

Of thoughts I cannot, dare not think,

Torture me like shadow hounds,

And bring me to the brink,

For all’s not well, and while they sip,

From cups of hope, that ever-empty be,

Or drink honeyed words from every lip,

Well, when you’ve lived, you’ll see,

For now we’ve turned the final page,

And there can read what all can sense,

The Dying of the Age.

Old Man To A Child

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I don’t look up much, no, not anymore,

No reason, really, to a wide empty sky,

Oh, what was it like? You’re right well to ask,

But where are the words, it’s right hard to describe,

Emptiness now, where once was plenitude of life-

But now-

Yes, the clouds are fair, or threatening, still,

Dark hovering one day, delighting the next,

Throwing daggers of light with cannonic sound,

Or arches of colour, like a child fairy’s dream,

But the swirling flocks that once danced above,

It’s been some years now since I saw the like,

And this year and last, in autumn and spring,

Search as I might, none flew south, and none north again,

Yet, in my time, they covered the heavens, for many a day,

But the insects have gone, the fields and the trees,

So they have too.  And the bats? 

Oh, they stopped coming two year ago.

No, I don’t look up much, no, not anymore,

There’s little to see, and I don’t like to cry.

Winter Note

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The town is fixed in icy gloom, 

And grim the sallow faces,

Bent against the bitter wind,

Like penitential cases,

While in the church, with reaching spire,

A priest prostrates in supplication,

Imploring gods to save us all,

As if we’re their earthly nation,

And there, on frozen river bank,

Tracks of footprints in the snow,

Where once a sad-eyed woman walked,

And last talked there to the Crow,

For in the shops and in the homes,

The air is thick with desperation,

Nothing is as once it was,

There’s nothing left but resignation,

And for the rest, we lead our lives,

In search of meaning, love, for reason,

But life just is, it comes and goes,

No more-there is no other season.

There Stood A Man

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Der_Wanderer_über_dem_Nebelmeer

Upon a rock upon a hill,

That looked on distant sea,

There stood a man in quiet pose, 

Who knew not how to be,

For nothing was as once it was; 

The future held no dream.

Dark winds blew from stranging lands, 

A final symphony,

Of strangled cries, and dismal moans, 

Of all humanity,

While, faint, a lonely songbird sang, 

Variations on the theme.

And with the wind came memories,

But faded, indistinct,

For existence was illusion veiled, 

The secret hid, where life had gone,

Why love had never come,

He fought the urge to scream,

Then slowly turned to search his way,

Back down the craggy slope,

With mouth turned grim, with knotted brow,

Coat heavy, and the cane,

Descending to a vast unknown,

And dark it all did seem.

She Wore A Crimson Dress

I can’t remember why I loved,

Or why I played the game,

The days were long, the nights were hot,

The yearning like a flame,

Then there she was, before me,

Our eyes like threads entwined,

As we passed on forest path,

It seemed we were one mind,

So followed her through sunlit glades,

By shadowed wooded streams,

Unsure of her reality,

While wondering of my dreams,

She had dark hair and sad blue eyes,

She wore a crimson dress,

And said to me, on parting,

You must not this, confess.”