The Tourist Board

We sit and lament the days gone by
when tomatoes baked gently in the midday sun,
the cassavas were softer, whiter, smoother.
The days when they danced with lions' manes,
drinking blood and milk in a potent elixir.

What time is high tide?
What time is low tide?

What time is the time for a culture to die?
The sun--hot sands of Twiga are packed and repressed,
the breakwater infested with crisps and coke.
Fort Jesus' thick walls crumble, and the invaders
are back ... with sunglasses and dollar bills.

Confined now to Bombolulu, the place for the crippled,
we grin with chipped, yellowing teeth and cracked faces.
Muttering a requiem for the day when the war cry would ring;
The great giant would fall, yielding sweet white ivory ... life.

Who is singing?
Who is dancing?

Do the Masai men and women jump high to the savannah sky,
Their red cloth billowing and their dark skin shining bright?
Does their red bead jewellery sway as they swirl?
Or do they work in the hotel, folding dirty sheets?

Do they, too, remember the days of milk and honey--
roving the Amboseli with the wind on their back?
Do they, too, remember the endless thudding sky--
when the threat of civilisation was eclipsed by the stars?

When does the sun rise?
When does the sun set?

So we sit and lament the days gone by ... the red steppe and
The roaring earth. The tree of life and the island paradise.
We sit and drink cold spiced tea for hours.
Sit with us. Unapenda sigara? Would you like a cigarette?
There's nothing to do but watch the concrete world go by.

FIRE 24, p 157; Maria Achieng Onyango