By Michael Paterson-Jones


The slash of red of cardinals playing in the snow, 
Conflicts with memories of the Africa I know.
My mind drifts away from winters cold and cruel,
To summers where the bright sun is the fuel
That fires the growth of grass and fever trees,
Egret perches, and where giraffe can feed with ease.
In a world of snow and slush, I cannot smell,  
Like I could where in the land I used to dwell.
The sweet scent of first rain on arid earth
That brings the flying ants to end the dearth
Of food for fiscal shrikes and swallows, 
Who swoop the swarms as oft as daylight allows.

There is another scent, offensive as it seems
At first brings back memories of acrid smoke and beams 
Of light piercing the thatch of mud hut roof,
To show cold embers on the floor, the proof
Of fires that cooked pots of meal and cobs of corn.
These are the scents of that far land where I was born.

In a land heavily covered in a carpet of snow,
 Sounds are muffled and seldom grow 
To match the sounds from that place afar,
Like the sad call of the road squatting night jar
And call of the weaver, baby eaten by a snake, and bereft.
These are the sights, the sounds and smells of the land I left. 

My Africa

The jackal slinks his lonely way
Between dried stalks of grass that sway
Gently in the wind that blows
Over veld and stream that no longer flows.

Danger stalks the world of bush
Where impala, eland and zebra rush
to miss the flying claws and slashing fangs
of lions trying to void their hunger pangs. 

Egrets perch on fever trees
Below, giraffes strip tender leaves.
The leopard lies next to his kill.
Of impala meat he’s had his fill.

The drought has dried the riverbed
Hippos and crocs have fled
Downstream to where the water flows
And collects in stagnant hollows. 

From close by two calls are heard
Hyenas laugh and from the buffalo herd
Snorting as the dangers near 
Their new-born calves so full of fear.

The tortoise struts on tippytoes
Across the sand to where he knows
There is a patch of still green plants
That he can share with hungry ants.

A guineafowl with bobbing head
Checks for food with every tread
Oblivious of the eagle above
Getting set to make his move.

There is only one Africa where you know
There is no sleet or even snow,
But scorching sun, then pouring rain
And happy frogs sound their refrain.

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