Haggard & Halloo

Frank Talk

In memory of Stephen Biko
(murdered while in police custody
in a South African prison in 1977)

Does it matter
that I was excited by the country,
that I was enticed
by the beauty, the danger,
the mountains, the valleys,
vineyards, beaches,
the vast array of insects, aloes,
leaches and peaches,
the leopards, the lions,
crocodiles, spiders and snakes,
the cries that hyenas make?

Does it matter
that I was astonished
by the way elephants’ ears flap
where they’re mad
and how they chase cars away,
how they flatten trees
just to scratch their backs,
the way anything will grow
if you just stick it in the ground,
the sound of a peacock’s anger,
the lemonade?

Does it matter
that I was a foreigner,
that I was eleven years old,
foretold and blindfolded
but not bold enough to understand why
I was suddenly ashamed to be white?

Does it matter
that I learned to listen
and to watch,
to stop and consider the cost
of respect lost along the way,
to silently go away
sometimes afraid,
sometimes prepared to forget?

Does it matter
that I was taught to play rugby
cricket, soccer, the guitar,
gymnastics and the fool
that I was schooled hard
in fantastic stories
and useless attitudes
of what is right for a white boy?

Does it matter
that I was perfect by nature
not a cadet
that I let human nature
lure me in and out of love
and hate,
that I learned to see the line between the two?

Does it matter
that I believe in freedom
and happiness
that I was sixteen years old
when told we must go,
that I grieved
and that by then
I didn’t want to leave?

Does it matter
that I found poetry
in the oceans surrounding me,
that I needed the pounding surf
to convince me of safety
in African nights,
to silence the unfairness of life?

It is important
that somehow I always knew
all along
the lies weren’t true,
that something was wrong,
that all was not well
in the land of sunshine and milk?

Copyright 2008 by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers.