Walking Back To Africa

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The desert, seen from high above, is scrawled
With the wind’s mysterious graffiti. I try to read
These hieroglyphs: wavy lines, claw marks, a group
Of neat horseshoes like sheepfolds. Even a cluster
Of houses, far out in the middle of this nowhere,
Perched on the stem of a thin road which ends
At their heart, must mean something, if only
I knew the code. But it’s Africa, below me,
Rising to meet me, and part of me is coming home.

As the plane flies, I am walking, walking back
To Africa, past my mother in her fifties frocks,
And my grandmother in her twenties shoes,
And her mother with her shawl and solid strength,
Past all their mothers, from the cold north east of England
Back to Africa, and my original, many times great,
Many times grand, mother. While the wheels kiss
The runway, while I wheel my case along lines as straight
As desert roads, I am walking back to her, though she
Will not know me, and by the time I am reading my name
On a placard held by a man sent to drive me, I have reached
Her. Five hours to fly, just one hour to walk
Across oceans, continents, generations, bridge
Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and adventure.

– Valerie Laws


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