Dust in red still stains my shoes
And drumbeats soothe my sleepless senses
I am home
And while the laundry soaps and whirs, the emails fly, the post stacks high, I find myself now lost for words
In thought, in dreams, and threadbare tales,
In legends, films and luggage scales
Of elephants bathed in pink sunrise and swollen moons hung far too high
Of children’s voices, swaying choirs, ground coriander, blazing fires
The fight for freedom, open skies, leopard eyes and history’s sighs
And the voices of the men – and women too – who took their lives and used them through,
Who sought a better place to be, who fought for true democracy,
And when revenge seemed like a right, they threw that rage out in the night,
Their children now, the ones born free,
Navigate new territory,
In towns, in bars, museums, cars,
In crowded slums, beneath the stars,
They labour for a future where
The past is gone and no-one cares,
What colour, background, accent, hair,
They have or had, where no-one stares
Ideals, it seems, that Britain shares,
The tumble dryer sirens
Phones ring and updates stifle
I wash my face, consume coffee
Ignore the question: what of me?
What have I done to change the world?
And what should be my lifetime’s goal?
The cursor blinks, my vision stirs
And still I know I’m lost for words
Through sleepless senses drumbeats sound
The desktop sways, I reach for ground
My shoes are there, the red dust too
Could I be a person who,
Takes a stand and sees it through?
Could I spend 27 years
Cut off from those whom I hold dear?
And do I have it in myself
To leave, unanswered, all those crimes
Against me and against my time
Instead to forge for peace ahead
The inbox beeps, I long for bed
These jumbled thoughts, unfiltered sights
Must find their place and so must I
With all the luck that I received
In that great global lottery
There should, I’m sure, somewhere, somehow
Be something I can do right now
To lead, to help, inspire, and grow
The kind of world I want to know
But what and where should I begin?
The rain bears down, sleep closes in
I’m lost for words,
Again, it shows
My eyes see Cape Town washed in snow,
Table Mountain, river beds
Hyena cries, a zebra dead
Right now I’m just person who
Walks with red dust on her shoe
Tomorrow beckons, thoughts will clear
That battle now for one idea
Til then I must admit defeat
Save my words and get some sleep
A thousand miles away and more
There is a barren patch of floor
It does not know its dust is gone
Two footprints where the lions roar
Now stain in red my bedroom floor
For travel has a price to pay,
That nothing ever stays the same
Twinned forever there and here
Into my soul, the stories sear
The dust is red, my mind it fumbles
And all I know…
Is I feel humble
Thank you for reading this far and indulging me in my experiment with South African poetry.
Disclosure – I travelled to the country thanks to GoToSouthAfrica and South African Airways. As you can probably tell, I kept the right to write about whatever I liked.
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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