Sunday, February 22, 2015


In those places not born of experience,

nor sourced in cellular imaginings,

remembered as soul food consumed

by ancestors, there is a way of holding


to the edge; of standing, observant and

not immersed, watching the oceans of

mind, roll and turn in waves of new

understanding, and becoming; always


apart, never able to enter into the

river of life in the same way as those

who have suckled at the teat of Africa,

those who have wiped dust from hot


brows, slapped at deadly mosquitoes

in the night, licked clean the plastic

bowls, of the last, drying crusts of pale,

inadequate, but desperately devoured


maize; drawn in flimsy buckets, dusty

water, to slake deep thirst; stacked in

neat and ordered collation, dry sticks

for the fire, dipped wet hands in mud


to caress bricks into life, birthing the

hut which will hold off the worst of

 the drenching, thundering rains in

the Wet season; crept through dead,


crunching cornfields, to capture small

confused mice, which can be threaded

on sticks, stewed, roasted or grilled, to

be sold by the side of the road, or eaten


as a treat, and a respite from the boiled

greens and glutinous Nsima which

holds off death, even if  it does not give

Life, in those ways which so many others


take for granted, those who can only ever

stand and watch, never truly knowing

the depth and breadth of this being;

never touching the heart of darkness.


Roslyn Ross



  1. This is wonderful image on what it really means with poverty..

    any food that: holds off death, even if it does not give Life, makes me understand how much it is a status quo and not progress.. I would probably hesitate to eat mice also.

  2. the lines took me down memory lane...i lived in Zambia for three years and am not absolutely unfamiliar with the mice stanza...many people treated the food as a delicacy there too...."the heart of darkness" has a classic touch to it reminding us of Joseph Conrad...

    1. Yes, we also lived in Zambia and had more than four years in Angola during the civil war and now nudging five in Malawi. I think the most depressing thing about Africa is that the poverty is self-inflicted through corruption, self-serving greed and a lack of community consciousness. People care about self first, family second and then their community/tribe/religion with no thought to the society or the community as a whole let alone for politicians to the nation.

      Having also lived in South Africa in Johannesburg and Cape Town my Africa experience is long and varied and my consistent sense is that the continent is a mess, with South Africa spiralling down the same plughole, because of corruption engrained in cultures. The chief system makes it worse, the racism between tribes and toward others, particularly whites, but also toward Indians and vice-versa, makes it worse, and high levels of incompetence have reduced once profitable and stable ex-colonies to basket-case economies where those in power continue to milk the aid industry and steal monies meant to improve people's lives.

      In the past 50 years more than $3trillion has been poured into the African continent and on average people are worse off than they were 30 years ago. When the British handed Zambia over it had an economy to rival Singapore and within a decade of corruption and incompetence it was in ruins. Ditto for many other African nations following independence.

      Some of the richest people in the world are African leaders! The 'heart of darkness' was born and bred in Africa and the poverty is home-grown.

      As an outsider it is the corruption and self-serving greed I find hardest to understand.

  3. Emotional portrayal of the struggles to survive that still exist for many Africans. Drama and tension underscore your words.

  4. So many struggle to survive in so many places. Extremely emotional and powerful write. hayes Spencer is kanzensakura.

  5. Very evocative, leaving the reader with a chill on the skin and all too humbled by our privilege. Nudging one to think and be compassionate.

  6. Definitely a reality-check for others' hardship--and the poem is well done.

  7. When we live in a rather comfortable neighborhood and work in the realm of academia, it is so easy to forget that there still exists pockets and countries of extreme poverty.

  8. Ah.. the earthy struggles of life.. and the prize
    of intermittent gratification into the
    prize of love of life.. yes.. there
    is much loss without the struggle..
    and often it is the fuller being
    that can

  9. wow, it is very interesting to know about your experience in Africa and how you shed light on their issues in your comment. it helped me understand your piece in a better way. Thank you.

  10. I was born in Africa and this really does the beauty of your words about not being "able to enter into the river of life in the same way as those who have suckled at the teat of Africa." WOW! How exquisitely poetic!

    1. Like many things in life, no-one can truly understand without the experience.

  11. Heartrending write of life - or the unknowing of the fight for it of those of us who life in comfort.