Samburu

The Remembrance

(click to listen)

In my blood
there is the rhythm

beating
stepping out the steady pace
of the journey          long remembered in my blood

and I can only think of some gritty, sandaled foot
black by any measure
patting the sand
beating out the constant flow of    stepping
churning the already beaten and broken grains
further
into the mist that sand becomes
along
what the spirit and tradition tells the African
is the trail of the fathers…
the elders, those who have come

this way before

and all these years later
there is still a rhythm
in my blood

calling me African
from across the long waters
calling me a name–something like Ogutamelli
from across the long waters

sending my desire    racing for the sea of sun
across my back
and the hunger for a wry dryness in my throat
the parched rhythm of a heartbeat

from the center of my chest

moving my feet and guiding my eyes
where there is no pavement
no Main street…no traffic light or buildings
to seek out on a map

and I am stepping to that rhythm

beating
churning down deep inside of me

I am beating out that timid recall of rhythm
I am dusting the yellow-red pigment
from my flesh

I am striking away the errant desire to be cooled
and rinsed of the sweating
and casting off the piggish appetite
of three full meals a day

I am listening and hearing
the mixtures of blood in my body

hashing out the     division

remembering out the naked days
of where my blood first began

I am recounting the hundreds of years and the generations
unfolding the fathers and the mothers

time and again         time and again

tracing the blood back to    the rhythm
of the feet

pacing out the
rise and fall
of the feet

and the silent swelling and emptying of the chest
with the desert air

the rhythm/the rhythm

rise chest/the rhythm
fall chest/the rhythm

rise foot/the rhythm
fall foot/the rhythm

rise head/the rhythm
fall head/the rhythm

rise arms/the rhythm
fall arms/the rhythm

rise/the rhythm
fall/the rhythm

move/the rhythm
move/the rhythm

step/the rhythm
step/the rhythm

pace/the rhythm    pace/the rhythm
move/step/pace/the rhythm

rise/fall/step/the rhythm
pace/move/step/the rhythm

In my blood
there is the rhythm

beating
stepping out the path of where I’ve been

pacing out the remembrance of being African
and dark under the desert sun

moving alongside the camels loaded with desert salt
to be sold in Zaire

moving the steady beat of stepping
clocking the rhythm of the heart inside my chest

beating out the remembrance of being whole
centered in the glory of the rhythm

with the prayers     seven times a day
the prayers    seven times a day

to a God who heard them
and took me without harm across a sea of sun and sand

heard them
and took me across certain death

and I can still hear that      rhythm
beating in my blood
coming back for me

and reclaiming my soul

copyright 1987     Jas. C. Mardis


Something Sacred

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In Kenya
the morning is colder than the eyes of a thief

as a chilled brew of cow’s milk and spring water

streams these strong, black bodies

dancing over the shaved heads

over the taut, barren and eager bellies

of these soon-to-be men

who want to know the steps of their ancestral dance

who want the plaited, ochred hair of the Moran

who want to drape their fine, strong bodies in a glorious garb

who want the morning visit of the Lamaritan

and the quick snip of his sacred knife

Yes, my friend

In Kenya,

the Samburu are still making warriors

They want to know

that in a hundred years

when all of Kenya is one Western nation of brotherhood

when the tribes of Masai and Kikuyu

are wearing the same sad faces of being lost

and have begun the sorry, sanctioned slaughter of one another

in the name of civilization

under the gaze of some pale, blue-eyed god

That they will still be whole and strong

That from the banks of Lake Turkana to the cities of

Marsabit and Kisima Springs

That

these lands will not fall toward the hell of being developed

of being sold toward the eternal blast of bullets

and trophied animal carcasses

with the big bellies of Samburu children

laying flat against this sacred land

Listen to the ground thump  thump   booming

under the ancestral dance of the Samburu

their lithe and lean bodies stretching skyward

again and again

then falling back

thumping this old earth

awakening those dead before them

awakening the spirit of being whole again

remembering and reminding

calling on the young to honor what has been

honoring the sacred dance of being a strong people

Yes, my friend

the Samburu have spent time in the new world

have seen the glowing face of the talking box

have heard the white face honoring some god of the sky

then watched him pillage the earth

the Samburu have known

this slow destruction of dark people

when warriors, their Moran, cease to exist

and the white–and the black…faces

come into the land with the long, white papers

for the young ones to sign

as elders sit bent in the arms of old memories

Yes, my friend

the Samburu have seen the face of losing something sacred

and they are making warriors

stronger than ever before

(c) Jas. Mardis

Fabric Artist & Writer

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