I have had very vivid dreams of Africa since I was a child. I do not know that I believe in reincarnation, and while I suppose it is possible, there is a fragment of my logic-destroyed and moth eaten soul that does believe I lived there before some how long ago. That, or I have a kindred spirit that shares these dreams with me and lives somewhere close to the middle of the continent and occaisionally dreams about life below the Mason-Dixon.
In order for this post to be effective, you first have to download the following two songs:
Set them to play in your choice of media player in the order listed. Have them playing while you read the remainder of this post.Begin track 1.
I begin gliding over a long stretch of water, just arms length of the surface ripples. I am flying with my arms outstretched, at a steady pace or 10 miles an hour or so. It is nighttime and the moon, seemingly huge and bright and only a few feet over the horizon, casts a blue-silver glow over the water to my left. The beige-blue reflection of my flesh, somehow gilded in this half light, must have made me appear as though I were luminescent. That is how it feels, anyway. The song you are hearing now is what is happening to me, to my heartscars.
Looking down into the watery bed of the earth below me, there is an occaisional shift of grey, darting about. I can feel myself smiling in elation. Everything smells clean and brand new and soft, like what I imagine the color green would smell like. Something singular and virginal, like newly cut grass and head-down lilacs, discouraged by the weight of a midmorning dew and bowing as if in prayer, all the while emanating their intoxicating liquor to the surrounding air.
The moon has ascended between us-
Between two pines
That bow to each other;
Love with the moon has ascended,
Has fed on our solitary stems;
And we are now shadows
That cling to each other
But kiss the air only.*
To my right I can see the faint, lilting outline of palm trees and a shoreline dotted with long posts embedded into the surf, the kinds of posts that the local fishermen will perch upon daily to harvest their flailing earnings from the ocean. I can smell distant fires and balsam, sweet and smoky and skybound. I can smell animal musk and sorrow, and the night sky is peppered with a smattering of stars all around. Everything alive and awake already stealthily knows me, and I'm quietly observed and accepted.
So silent the footfallBegin track 2, or wait until it comes before reading on.
soft as cat's paw
sandalled in velvet
The Bantu voices all overlapping and churning in a chorus, barely audible and almost indiscernable drumwork flowing like the streams of palm wine irrigating tribal bellies, recreating much lamented thunder, all of this hidden somewhere deep in the bush where even your memory betrays you in a banquet of sounds.
It is almost dawn now in the last flickering of twilight, and I'm planted somewhere in a field of lonely acacia trees on the edge of an overgrowth. The earth beneath my feet is both chalky and tender. There are shrill cries of birds and the rustling of leaves coming from far off places I cannot see, but I am unafraid. The breezes are warm and cradling me like a blanket, and smell like the faint sweetness of night blooming jasmine and gardenia, that husky, thick, fecund perfume that smells only of itself and nothing else on earth. The heat of the day is already pressing into my skin like that of a lover swollen to the teeth with desire and yearning, someone burning their touch into your flesh willfully and branding you with the memory of their eternal lust.
And now my ancient rhythm calls me,
Out of ashes and fraternal death,
Before you, Mother Idoto, naked I stand
before your watery presence a prodigal
leaning on an oilbean
lost in your legend
Under your power wait I
watchman for the watchword
An aching prodigal,
Who would make miracles
To understand the simple given
out of the depths my cry:
give ear and hearken …*
The air stops moving once the sun ascends to its highest, I wake in my bed to a cold reality and it is all gone. I'm me again, in these comfortable sheets and for a few moments all is shattered.
I am the sole witness to my homecoming.**Poetry excerpts from Christopher Okigbo, used here with love, honor, and care in his memoryEDIT: