Do Not Write Poems About Africa ...

On winning my first major literary award after 25 years of writing Africa

if you want to win awards.

            Poems about Africa’s burning buildings, corpses
of dead children. Wars. Mutilated bodies, heads, arms,

in every which direction,

                        your hometown and cities, gone,
long lines of refugees, tattered rags on their heads,

your people,
seeking refuge; skies were not meant to be blue

in that country of yours, so, now, around 

            the table where people who know how a poem
can crawl into the floor, find its limbs

into the breasts and into the heart of a person,

finds a way there, in that room where folks are to pick
            a poet,

but all the hour, they are weeping, tears, red-eyed

judges who do not know that war does not know how
                        to live on a clean page,
                        war travels only on a bloody

journey, leaving behind itself in red, in forgotten skulls
in lost limbs of children
            who died, running, and they never heard that

legs that are on the run will be amputated by bombs

if they must run,

so, the judges, staring at a ceiling where not even
a spider can crawl,

turn the page. After all, why give a prize
to someone who already knows the very art
of weeping,
of waiting, of wandering,

of being in the being of being,

            that place where you come, not so you can be.

Used with permission of the author.