Leaving Home – Kate Rhodes

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1997 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Second Prize
Adjudicator: Jo Shapcott

For three weeks I have been walking,
Away from my village, my history and my home.
I have left my garden behind me.
There the ground is full of the ochra and the beans
That I planted, and watered, and dreamed over.
I could carry none of it with me because I must move quickly.

At night I stop at the campsites which are everywhere,
Because we are all walking East.
Millions of us following a single road,
As determined as ants.

Last night I met a woman from my village.
She poured cool, soothing water on my swollen feet,
And told me a story I do not believe.

From her mouth I have it that the great pond of my childhood,
The endless lake of my ancestors,
Is choked with the bodies of my tribe.
The fish, she said, are fattening on the corpses of our families.

I told her to make still the words in her mouth
Because I know this cannot be true.

Sp many could not pass from life ot death in one moment.
The Gods would send them back.

Copyright © Kate Rhodes 1997

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