Friday, January 28, 2005

Poem: AIDS in Africa


In the south of Africa.

The landscape quivers in fever mirage.

Birds aiming for savanna ponds
crash-land onto cracked dirt roads.

The baked earth scatters sharp white light with life
forms, shapes and colors,

small sandy monkeys
and larger antelope with wet breath,
lazy trees standing still.

The air standing upright and solid and still.

Water buffalo flies
hover over
shoulder fur
clumped with mud.

Dogs with curled tails,
ribs stuck under thin skin,
rats and mosquitoes
darting and stopping and going again.

Naked footprint puddles
in old water
stained days-yellow and brown, reflecting

dry grasses and far-off forest shadow greens,
the ache-hot and heavy
of the sun.

The village quivers in a dim way,
a heart outside its split brown chest,
blood cords stretched thin,

blood as still sludge,
choked with contagion.

Mud and branches are walls and ceilings.
Mud and branches are shelter from the sun.

Shelter from rain that rarely falls
unless in torments
whose quick floods recede like ghosts
back into the other world.


Mother, 19 years.
Child, 7.
Baby, 1.

This as every morning,
mother and child walk barefoot without hats,
or shirts,
mom carrying baby
to the river.

Thirty minutes there.
Thirty minutes back.

For waste-water mixed with fresh.

Putrid sewer water
for walking dead people to drink.

Walking dead mother whose husband had lovers
who had lovers
who were young and now gone.

Walking dead child.

Dying baby.


Mother carries brown water in an old plastic jug


on her back

to the village.


The arrival of loud white trucks in the village.

Dust rises in the clearing from which the dogs scatter.

The knowing man from the city,
400 miles over the two hills to the north,
gets out.

He proclaims,

exactly as a sober, sweaty,
hopeless British man would,

that it is too late,
always too late,

that he hopes the children will die first

so they will not be alone.


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