Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A "Welcome Home from Africa" - Rising Poem....

"There is no disorientation quite like sleep depravataion combined with the jet lag." -Colette DeHarpporte

I am home from Africa, having arrived yesterday around noon, from the glorious Accra, Ghana. My heart does a funny leap writing this line, now at 3:47am in my St. Paul, Minnesota apartment, where a Winter draft greets my still-in-Africa-skin, and my body struggles to re-acclimate to the cold, this time zone. Yes.

Today's Writer's Almanac Poem*, by Robert Bly, arrives in my in box, next to my friend Colette's email, like sweet, warm, sort of "Welcome home!" words.

Disoriented, rising at this hour of dark, when my head expects light, I recognize Bly's words alive and at work inside my being: "Navies are setting forth in my veins." Yes. Little ships are moving, porting packages from my heart toward other destinations in the body. African gifts of story, memory, warmth, are being toted through my blood stream as I wake and wonder where I am, and what this air is that moves from outside, through the cracks in my windows, over my exposed South-African-Zanzibarian-Kenyan-Ugandan-Ghanaian-sun-tanned limbs....
I am happy thinking of the Indian Ocean. I am ecstatic seeing Saddam Dzikunun-Bansah's face in my mind's eye, or hearing Dumisani Ntombelas's voice the other side of a line, sending me off with South African parting words. I giggle thinking of Nomi Nkomo's sweet, silly text messages standing in line at customs. I marvel at the Dorothy Amenuke-Art-house-Arthaus dreams still alive and being constructed in real life time in Kumasi -- as well as in my own imagination. I wonder about Ishaka Mawanda and Emily Morris and if they are carrying Africa with them in their now on-safari-in-Minnesota-blood streams...? (Surely, they must understand this poem and the way waking so early in the cold affects the heart, mind, spirit.) I hold the questions of Patrick Kilonzo and Kenyan-Paper-making-collaborations in my rising body -- along with a happy desire to return to the Eastern Cape and squeeze a beloved Auntie Mo Dabula by her 70th birthday....

I read "Welcome Home" emails from State Side family and friends with requests for my American address and imagine the Holiday greeting cards that will arrive at 2338 Marshall Avenue in St. Paul. (Where will these cards arrive next year, or years to come? What is my address? Where do I live?) Hmmmmm......Where does any of us really reside?

A woman named Nozi, who is not my South African Community Development friend from Nquthu, drops me a line wondering how she got onto my Africa-emails-list-serve. I wonder this, too. My head filled with poems and dizzy dawn dreams and so much desire to locate my body in a proper time, place, aligning all of me with what my heart knows. Where does Ms. Motloung live? What is her email address? Where am I? Where are you?

Happy Morning. Happy Rising and Return Journeys to all who read this.


*Waking from Sleep

by Robert Bly

Inside the veins there are navies setting forth,
Tiny explosions at the waterlines,
And seagulls weaving in the wind of the salty blood.

It is the morning. The country has slept the whole winter.
Window seats were covered with fur skins, the yard was full
Of stiff dogs, and hands that clumsily held heavy books.

Now we wake, and rise from bed, and eat breakfast!
Shouts rise from the harbor of the blood,
Mist, and masts rising, the knock of wooden tackle in the sunlight.

Now we sing, and do tiny dances on the kitchen floor.
Our whole body is like a harbor at dawn;
We know that our master has left us for the day.

"Waking from Sleep" by Robert Bly, from Silence in the Snowy Fields. © Wesleyan University Press, 1962. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


Allena Charo said...

"Thank you for your blog! I've been reading and vicariously visting Africa with you... my heart is still in Mombasa! Welcome back!!!"

Sr. Rafael Tilton said...

Dear Melissa,
That's an old poem. No wonder it's so good! You do take fine pictures. Thanks for all the travelogues, outer and inner.
Peace and All good,
Sr. Rafael