July 5, 2005

Dear Jerry, you are always sincere and thoughtful. You have a good heart that listens, and that is one reason I take care responding to you. It's also why you remain special to me (think Mr. Fourth of July).

The poem "Mother of Our Flesh" will not be posted to AuthorsDen for long,* and I generally don't like to explain my poetry, but when I read your comment, I felt I needed to write something because I know you speak the mind of many. I was going to send it to your messageboard, but decided to put it with the poem's reviews instead.

In the first line of the poem, I use the phrase "we all," Jerry, and so include not only those outside Africa with power but also those inside Africa. Further, the poem acknowledges Africa's inner struggles with the following lines:
    But for the womb that birthed our magnification,
    we pay no tribute, let her limbs, breasts, noble neck and brow
    fall to dispute and the ravaging howls of corruption--
    we the ungrateful children.

If poetic language in the middle is excluded, a reader should see those lines as this statement: "we...let her...fall to dispute and the ravaging howls of corruption."

When I wrote "Mother of Our Flesh," for me that line directly referred to the political entities within Africa. I am aware of Africa's own criminals.

After that, Jerry, excluding the sons of her present soil who betray her, there's a reason why "the world" pours money, as you say, into Africa, and yet why it is not enough. Indeed, this singular perplexity is related to karmic debt/reaping what our ancestors imprudently sowed. If one studies history, one learns that the nations that prosper today have all at some point benefited from exploiting Africa. They have done so by doing everything from raiding Africa for gold and manipulating the diamond trade that encourages further bloodshed within her borders to taking flesh and blood resources from her shores to make them slaves to help build their empires beyond Africa.

Such considerations and history aside, I was asked to write a poem about Africa reflecting upon genocide and destruction. I prayed, and "Mother of Our Flesh" is what came out. I'm not heavy into politics, Jerry. You'd be shocked to learn that, but note how rarely I write anything political. :-) I truly do believe "we wrestle not against flesh and blood..."

However, when I do write poetry with a social message, I'm usually speaking above the noise of specific finger pointing and what we see with our eyes. Usually, something hits me in the gut and I see a spiritual principle. In this case it was an ancient and simple one: "Honor your mother."

However, another analogy if I may: If Africa were some old building in which we'd proved the important world leaders had been born, then intelligent people concerned with honoring roots and history would understand we should do everything possible to preserve this special building. Yet, while the truth that life began in Africa has become fairly accepted and few reputable historians deny the syllogism in the poem that Greece and Rome evolved from Ethiopian cultural seeds and so gave birth to the free world as we know it today; the simple concept that we all, due to life's origin and the greatness of Africa's past civilizations having made today's magnificence possible for other nations, that we all should all share a concern for Africa seems impossible for many people to grasp.

I don't know. Perhaps it's because historically, to justify its plundering of that continent, western civilization has said so much to villify her that now we struggle to overcome the first-world's press clippings that Africa is a bad seed. And so we draw conclusions that Africa is responsible for herself; we've done all we can do. I suppose with the poem "Mother of Our Flesh" something in my spirit stood up to say, I disagree!

Always your friend and homegirl,
The Writing Junkie

Africa Action/US Policy on Rwanda
"Mother of Our Flesh"
"Defining Moments"
Voices for Africa/website
Hotel Rwanda (the DVD at Amazon)

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* NOTE:  Originally the poem "Mother of Our Flesh" was written for the website Voices for Africa, and I thought I would post it on AuthorsDen.com, get a few comments, and then remove it from the site. The day after I wrote it, another poem, "Defining Moments" fell from my lips to the page, and I posted it as well. Jim Dunlap chose the latter for the Voices for Africa website. I applaud his choice because I believe "Defining Moments" addresses genocide more clearly. Due to reader repsonse to both poems, I've decided to leave both poems posted at AuthorsDen.