We Have Come Home.

Just before my eleventh birthday, I discovered African poetry in a tiny class with a certain Mrs Zaccheus. She was our English language teacher and she read the poems in a voice that made me sit up and listen. With her, I discovered David Diop, Kwesi Brew, John Pepper Clark, Gabriel Okara and so many other Africans who spun magic with their words. It was those men and women who made me decide that when I grew up, I’d become a writer too. I wrote many poems in those days, I so desperately wanted to be like them and I worked at it until life got in the way (Pharmacy was a jealous lover).

 

There was a poem that haunted me even then, it haunts me even now. It is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read- We have come home by Lenrie Peters. Lenrie Peters was Gambian poet and doctor and novelist (I want to visit Gambia so bad!), who was famous and even acclaimed for his poetry. His imagery was off the hook and his work had so many layers that each time you read his work, you see something new.

 

We Have Come Home
We have come home
From the bloodless wars
With sunken hearts
Our booths full of pride-
From the true massacre of the soul
When we have asked
‘What does it cost
To be loved and left alone’

We have come home
Bringing the pledge
Which is written in rainbow colours
Across the sky-for burial
But is not the time
To lay wreaths
For yesterday’s crimes,
Night threatens
Time dissolves
And there is no acquaintance
With tomorrow

The gurgling drums
Echo the stars
The forest howls
And between the trees
The dark sun appears.

We have come home
When the dawn falters
Singing songs of other lands
The death march
Violating our ears
Knowing all our loves and tears
Determined by the spinning coin

We have come home
To the green foothills
To drink from the cup
Of warm and mellow birdsong
‘To the hot beaches
Where the boats go out to sea
Threshing the ocean’s harvest
And the hovering, plunging
Gliding gulls shower kisses on the waves

We have come home
Where through the lightening flash
And the thundering rain
The famine the drought,
The sudden spirit
Lingers on the road
Supporting the tortured remnants
of the flesh
That spirit which asks no favour
of the world
But to have dignity.

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