Kwaheri / prose poem


To my Father

You’re standing below Mt. Kilimanjaro, a white man from the northern hemisphere. Masai tribesmen encircle you. A torrid heat blurs the line of Acacia trees near the mountain foot. By your boots lies a backpack and a water bottle, as if you came here to ascend the mountain with only the clothes on your back. How anxiously you waited to see this giant, speckled by montane forests, heathlands, a desert capped by ice. How strange yet familiar to find yourself on maroon soil, among men in red shukas, wrapped around frames plied by a Tanzanian sun. They’ve seen other white men dream before. They’ve felt your shadow in their past; seen their lands retreat below their feet in broken treaties, colonial rewrites. Yet here you are, convinced your story is not so far written, willing to abandon your adopted name. Three strikes of malaria will later try to claim you, Swahili will become your first language, Tanzania your home. You have your eyes on the summit; you’re invisible from the summit.

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