In the evening, and in the overhang
of trees, you can see that I am
a black river; but be careful what
you read into my colour – I know
your poets and the irresponsibility
of your traffic in tropes and symbols.
Don’t you dare discover in my blackness
the hubris of racial solidarity!
I am no kin to the hue of humans
(nor the “you” of youth, nor the “with”
of withered old age; there is no part of speech
thaat can forge identity between me and you).
I do not share your ethnocentric dreams,
for my blackness is not inherited: clear
and colourless are my ancestral mountain streams.
I am black because of what I carry – and
I don’t mean the sins of man or nature;
mine is not that moral darkness that
you oppose to the light and the love of God,
but simply the chemistry of leaf and bark
in water, and the need to keep my bowels
free from clogging weeds that feed
upon the sunlight. I am black for my own
protection, and to make myself inscrutable
to prying poets like you, who, in trying
to expose my depths and secrets, would
convey only a point of view – a moment
and a place caught like a fish in a brief
basket of lethal exposure, doomed
to fade and die.
I was before the first anchor
of human thought broke the surface
of any stream, seeking the purchase of love;
and I will be when only anchors remain,
like rusted runes in layers of river stone.
I am Mazaruni, and I am always alone.
from The Journey to Repentir (Peepal Tree Press, 2009), © Mark McWatt 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher.