Poems: “The Tanzanian Pride”, “I Am A Child of Tanzania” and “Asha” in The Kalahari Review
They will ask who you are. Tell them this:
your hidden beauty is the Southern Highlands
your lips are violets from the Usambara meadows
your tongue rhymes colours of hundred dialects
your face laughs with purity of Kilimanjaro waters
your hands weave a story of the ocean in the East
your heart jolts to a beating of the Makonde drums
your body sways with elegance of coconut trees
your feet chime riddles of the savannah wilderness, and
your pride is a height only a Maasai warrior knows.
Blood of my ancestors speak,
that I am wisdom within.
History from Olduvai Gorge,
that I am knowledge of evolution.
Unbroken caldera Ngorongoro,
that I am the wonder within.
Our elephant, largest on land,
that I have power to leap forward.
Great lakes of East Africa,
that I am source of greatness.
Mighty height of Kilimanjaro,
that I am tall as I want to be.
Cave paintings of Kondoa Irangi,
that I am a timeless artist.
Maasai, Makonde or Ndengereko,
that I am a vision of unique beauty.
Crowned with mixed tribal wealth,
that I am rich in diverse culture.
The spicy fragrances from Zanzibar,
that I am an essence for tolerance.
The Hehe and Ngoni warriors,
that I am a brave and strong soul.
Ghosts of long-gone slavery,
that I am free of imposed limitations.
Tales depicted in Swahili fables,
that I am a lexicon of many lessons.
Like Jumbe, Karume or Nyerere,
that I am spirit of sacred change.
Born and raised in the homeland,
that I am a child of Tanzania.
I entered her modest Swahili world
of fresh flowers, spices and herbs
at Soko Muhogo close to Jaws.
She offered a spiced cup of chai
and sat me down inside a chamber.
I thought she saw me as overly tired.
From a nearby wall was Siti binti Saad
watching her through a framed canvas
to strung my muscles as taarab ensemble.
The hands of a blind woman worked
kneading and rubbing aching muscles
to a relaxed singing of loved contours.
Across the hallway the queen of Unyago
joined with drums between her thighs
invoking a session of flesh detoxification.
Clove, cinnamon and coriander seeds
formed a quintet with coconut and rice
liberating me to purity with scrub verses.
The hands of Asha worked like a zumari
in a medley of ngoma reducing pain songs
to revive the singing and dancing in my body.
(This poem is an ode for Asha, a blind woman skilled as a masseur at Mrembo Traditional Spa in the heart of Stone Town, Zanzibar.)