After South Africa – A Poem

By Abi King | Africa

Oct 18

South African Lion 900

Dust in red still stains my shoes

And drumbeats soothe my sleepless senses

I am home

From Africa

And while the laundry soaps and whirs, the emails fly, the post stacks high, I find myself now lost for words


And humble

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,

And yet…

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

Elephants in Madikwe Game Reserve

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.



About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

  • Well, I feel humble too after reading that Abi. I love the sentiment as well as the poetry. I can really relate to thoughts of how to spend a lifetime, and winning in the birthplace lottery. I will be reading this a few more times no doubt! :)

  • SAM says:

    You are clearly not just a pretty face


    Keep ’em coming!

  • Renuka says:

    I loved this lion picture!

  • Darlene says:

    Very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.

  • Aktar says:

    Very different and the I liked it a lot…………

  • Beautifully done.

    This makes me think the first thing everyone needs to do after arriving home after a long trip…is write a poem. Get it all out.

    This is what I think travel is about: digging deep. If the experience bounces off the outside of you, it’s not an experience.

  • Alvina says:

    You made me smile. Thank you

  • Hi Abi
    That was beautiful and you certainly did a beautiful country justice with your words.

  • Steve says:

    Wow, so many complex ideas woven into one beautiful piece of writing. I’d love to read more of your poetry….

  • Sam @ Trilogy Yachts says:

    Africa is simply awesome! Summer 2014, I’ll be definitely out for African safari.. wooo.. thanks for the post and pics..

  • Abby says:

    Beautiful, Abi. :) I hope to read much more! And you are such a ridiculous photographer… the photos and poetry are choreographed so beautifully!

  • 'Peter's World' Travel Story Awards 2013 | Travel Unmasked says:

    […] Abi King. Always absorbing with such beautiful words. It was Abi’s take on South African poetry that wowed me most […]

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