The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1978 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Joint First Prize
Adjudicators: John Holloway, Joan Foreman
Day comes into a corner of the room,
I lie and watch the lizard overhead
and listen to the lusty jungle waking.
Zahinda, finished with the dark, is raking
his fire out; hides his laughter with a hand
hissing away night’s terrors, kicks the hen
and goes into his personal morning.
clamour of heat begins; beetles and bees
rattle and tap and whirr; dog snarls to dog;
a parrot imitates a child, a child
screams like a parrot; whimpering monkeys swish
under the leaves; chorus of frogs relax
their bubbling throats; and people on the road
exchange their jambo, jambo sana. making
their growling talk to one another, taking
babies and baskets to the market; water
splashes and slaps; a barrow grinds and grumbles
its battered wheel along the stones; someone
swings a machete down among the trees
beating it thwack against the wood and aping
the rhythm of the drum.
this great cacophony of noises, shaping
such harmony, such richness out of it?
And lying here, at last I’ve understood
why people want to have their ashes strewn
over beloved places when they’re dead.
I want to be alive.
half over Africa, the other half
over the other place I know as home.
This insupportable dichotomy
suddenly has me playing harlot, sick
with longing for a sight of English elms
precisely drawn against a lambswool sky,
hayrick and barn pencilled in amber light,
fields, a hedgerow sown with may,
a rain-clean landscape cool with water-song
and ordered tenderness…
And all around me Africa is waking.
Enough. I’m getting up before I cry.
Stupid to watch the lizard, wondering why
the heart has such capacity for breaking.
Copyright © Stephanie Fone 1978