Floating Back

How to navigate the river of a son named David
at the hot time of day is what we want to know
and we donít hear the knock.

I dream we are in the bedroom.
We don’t know what to do in Africa
but love each other and walk the beach.

Andrew loves the brown women, lets tide
somersault him in undertow, loves the tormenting market,
sniffs pineapples for the sweetest.

Old men thirsty for palm wine shinny up trees.
We laugh at how boys shake down green.
Juice runs down Andrewís face from ripe mangoes.

I like to do the High Life with men whose hips
flow like a river, smoke and dance at Cafe de la Paix.
Twenty-four, the only woman at my school –

chicken in peanut sauce served over a bed of mpondu –
My students hope I’ll dance to James Brown.
I ride on Marvin’s motorcycle

and the next day Mutamba asks if I love my husband.
“You don’t know these people yet,” a Belgian says.
“Do you leave us with joy, Madame?” Mpoyi asks.

Frogs sing near the lake, people offer us all their food.
We fly over the red boiling heart of Nyirangongo,
dive down in our shaky plane with its vomit barrel.

Andrew loses all his clothes
one yellow shirt
he wears every day, bright canary.

We burn our taste buds – no food ever
as savory. Matuta’s sister comes to stay. They sleep together
as if at home, gently holding each other.

Andrew says the river is beautiful,
and our child grows in me
as he floats back.

October 11th, 2004 by