In the wake of Ruanda

A poem I wrote 25 years ago about the tragedy of Africa's exploitation and underdevelopment.






O diamond princes

and oil black kings,

O once proud Africa

of rampant things

and blazing sunsets,

what happened to your children?

Their bellies swollen,

so distended:

a million hands

all extended

in a choir of helplessness

reaching for the sky.

Those jagged bones still unbleached

so visible yet to the eye,

when I see them

hunched together

crunched and tethered

in a sack of fading skin,

I want to cry.

Your tribal warriors,

your doctor witches,

only dance now

upon open graves:

those crater ditches,

those gushing veins,

where life drains now

so furiously

towards the end.

Bulging heads on matchstick torsos,

hungry mouths that feed the flies,

crippled legs

screeching hearts

pleading eyes

themselves that beg

the question, why?

Migrating souls, tormented images,

transformed,

transfigured,

transmitted,

across the skies,

beyond frontiers,

beyond recognition.


Seeking refuge in endless flight

via satellite dishes,

their ghostly, ghastly figures

invade our screens:

an awful sight

disturbs our night-time wishes

O Mother Africa!

A flood of tears

drains your withered body,

draped in a shawl of pain,

raped without shame

by so many nations,

whose fine phrases

so well disguise

their burning, amber,

sterling eyes.

What would poor Conrad now have said,

to see within the darkness of your heart,

an apocalypse now,

so widespread:

from Sudan to Mozambique,

atrocities that fail to speak

as clearly as Rwanda:

but devastate nonetheless,

create a state so unblessed,

an orphandom called Uganda

And as the northern orchestra

plays its baleful tune,

in a dance with death

the skeletons embrace

beneath a grey old moon,

which has no face……..

it turned its head in shame.