I have no right to write about Africa, for her children
have done so with a poignancy I couldn’t begin to touch
(even if my skin were brown and I knew the secrets of perfect ugali).
But from my beginnings as a tiny, naked-footed, white kid, I hoped,
always hoped to be adopted by this land
whose beauty and diversity have been exploited and cast aside like
so many whores in a brothel (if you’ll forgive the rough image for rough actions).
Creativity stuffed into tourist shops, languages reluctantly accepting new words
(I heard tell that people gamble in English).
If I thought I could right any of these wrongs, I would, but
I have no right to be paternalistic, not even any
right to write about Africa.
Compassion means “to suffer with,” I remind myself as I watch
the mango trees and mountains and huts and travesties
of NGOs and development work carry on from the window of car as I ride
along the swath of red dirt that reads like a wound
through and upon the surface of this place I’ve dared to call my home.
Kipling, believe me when I tell you that the White Man’s Burden is that of a folly so great that its seduction lives in the hearts of even the most well-meaning among us.