“Sands of Home”

This poem was originally published at THE LAKE in December 2014. I am reposting it here today in honor of my brother, friend, and colleague, Damilola Michael Aderibigbe, who has been assigned to Kano. My heart goes with you, Dami — pay my respects to the northland!

Sands of Home

after, and with lines from, Bliss Carman’s “A Vagabond Song”

I watch the drooping autumn
leaves through the frost-edged
window, place my brush back

on the palette, close my eyes
and take another walk through
the mausoleum of my memories,

and my heart is like a rhyme,
with the yellow and the purple
and the crimson keeping time

and I find I’ve wandered further
than I meant, my feet are bare again
and scuffing dust upon the road

leading to old Kano, red clay
walls, then trickles north, half-paved
remains of the Trans-Sahara highway.

And the scarlet of the maples
can shake me like a cry,
 yet my hand
refuses to sketch these temperate

trees upon the canvas — it is always
like this when I try, my heart a steadfast
stone too loyal to its origins,

it will not paint the autumn but
returns again, again to the scarlet
of the flame tree, branches burning,

lit with petals, again the purple
blossoms weeping from the jacaranda,
again the pale yellow promise

of the guava’s skin, the bite
of sweet pink, swallowed seeds. Truly
something in the autumn calls me,

calls and calls each vagabond
by name,
 calls in each wave, vast
separation ocean, rounds and echoes

off of every hill of flame,
finds me beside this frosting window
with my camel-stubborn paintbrush,

every year, still painting
sands of home.


6 thoughts on ““Sands of Home”

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