East African Verses

/ January 2023

inspired by W. S. Merwin and the Indian Ocean


there is a plain of black sand
and across it moves a figure
who has no sense of direction
but does not change course

the waves have earned respect
for not asking if they are welcome
if they forget themselves they arrive

radiant black sand

each day at sunset the hermit crab is closer
perhaps in search of shell
nor am I content with mine

the waterfall throws me onto black stones
slippery black stones so
unlike soft sand which guards my footsteps
for the wind to steal

I reckon the crater
until the horizon
we speak eye to eye

and I respond to the question
Why have you come here to the day after your last
I don't know
Wouldn't you go on
yes yes I would

tumble down the slope
at last reach the sea
the newness that emerges
will sing and chant and be

Dynamite Fishing

if you see something you like
destroy it
kill it
eat its flesh

fear not tomorrow's absence
nor the heavy-handed past

there is no dignity in the lesser beasts
the savagery of today is our duty paid
to buy our tired lips another chance

if you see something you want
murder it
skin it
eat its flesh

at the fishmarket I wonder if
the dynamite knew its violent ends
would it still fulfill its task

no no please I must believe
it knows better than us


I have learned so much
from so many

but the tales which linger longest
are told by silence


goodbye I told my torn-up shoes
and to my mother goodbye too
our next encounter will uncover
another world

his feet are burned and broken
yet he walks around
weathered cobblestones
memories of hallowed ground

there is beauty along
the winding path
I hope
I swim along the current

how where we are
ends up being always
where we were going

his feet are split open bleeding
drops fall through the earth
all the way to the sun
which they extinguish

goodbye I cried to those I loved
replace me with another
though they will feel my grin again
as it unfolds behind their eyes

arcs bend inwards as
we race outwards against the sun
it dims and threatens us with cold
as all things pass time is frozen
and we dance alone
encircled by our pieces
we are young now
we will not grow old


well son I must tell you
coral was such a beautiful thing
stone blossoms hosting
intricate dances by bright
fish and squid and rays
and sharks and turtles and

and the forests too were wonderful
filled with spiders with webs
and some had monkeys too
like us but more regal and joyful
and birds of many styles of
flight and song and feather and

and let me not forget to tell you
of deserts with cacti and snakes
and there was snow once too
we could glide across frozen lakes
and the grassy plains in some parts
had great beasts like buffalo
or lions and rhinos and

it all used to be real
not just in books
many motions shared our earth
and you would even see trees
when walking about your day
and hear creatures talking
in their secret tongues

I wish I had taken better notes
I wish I had written it all down
with such imaginative words that
you could feel the awe I felt
the vastness
the nobility
the indescribability

but now son you have
many cars and many roads and maybe
if you drive very fast and very far
you can forget the lives
whose graves each mile marks


everyone everywhere everything
and within it all
or maybe not within
but throughout


impermanent structures
beautiful lives

steps in motion
land at home


I fear I missed the trial which
weighed our gold against the globe that
false and mocking teeth condemned but
they do not deserve to die

against the many muted voices
we plugged our ears gave them no heed
to prove their worth above machines but
they do not deserve to die

amber gaze upon the scale
must know what heartless force prevails
their fate is cast we know they weep but
they do not deserve to die

how many brave and bloody truths
and teary-eyed and pleading youths
succumbed to gilded fist and cried but
they do not deserve to die


what goes unsaid
to earn my trust
I gain manyfold
where you return my heart
enriched by your care


everything you see is beautiful
by virtue of being seen

each pair of glimmering eyes
promises the whole world

the joy of being a fool
is finding wisdom in all things

because I am empty
what I receive is what I need

if you listen with your ear close
or from afar but intently
you hear harmonies

where goes the lost one
always home

should we be afraid
we should listen


I found someone sitting in
the middle of things and
I assume he had been there
for quite some time because
there were vines around his arms
and grass falling over his knees
his ears were filled with tomatoes
and he had carrots between his toes
there were flowers on his head
and dirt upon his lips
his resting eyes were closed
but of course I felt seen
there was a thorn in my palm
and my throat was dry
and I had raindrops on my shoulders
but he was dry
and I blinked and woke
my dormant tongue
which had been waiting until this moment
without knowing why
and with some hesitation I said
hello friend
where have you been
and he slowly opened cloudy eyes
which would have looked sad
if he knew what sadness was
and roused his voice
from ancient sleep
as he let the tomatoes fill his ears
and the carrots rise from underfoot
and with his constant gaze
on the order of things
and in his speech the sound of streams
he told me