African girl
Drenched in African heat
Not in disco ecstasy
But burdened
By the weight of life;
For the family crucible

African woman
In far-off times
On those sun-beaten savannahs
Haunted by beast and serpent
You fashioned intelligence
And called your newborn
Homo sapiens
A living star
Whose light would outshine
All celestial stars.

Now he fashions star wars
And says you
Are underdeveloped.
Your ancient bones
Exposed by the eroding
African hunger
Lie sacrileged
Among museum trivialities,
And jesting
They dub you
Lucy the fossil.

Yet you still bear
The fire of life;
Like a lioness hunting
For her cubs
Kneaded by the African sun,
Buffeted by tropical storm
You roam the wasteland
For the ingredients of life;
Water and fire.

African woman
Mother of mankind
And its destiny yet.
. . .
African girl
You are a good . . .
Black . . .

Poet's Note: ‘African Girl’ was written in 1985 in Zomba, Malawi. It is a study of a young girl
who had descended Zomba Mountain with a bundle of firewood weighing around
40kg; the mountain is over 200m high and the descent is more than 10km by
road. ‘Good black woman’ is a reference to a song by South African singer,
Yvonne Chaka Chaka.