first time flying home knowing
you won’t be there

crossing the first stretch of Atlantic
the air shifts

like time reconstitutes when a parent passes

how was it when you crossed by ship
60 years back


in transit planning a feast for you
I realise I bought nuts but not fruit

some of your disappointments
teaching with your all but not being promoted
being abandoned

not being able to engage in the end

passions   exploring   exchanging

pleasures   radio   jogging   tenting   drinking

leaving Africa for a better future
watching your grown child leave for Africa


the wine of Africa’s Europe tastes different
in Europe

you would’ve caught this
had you visited

the veg meal on the plane was pulled jackfruit biryani
an original hybrid like us

salt and pepper didn’t come so I requested them along with
more wine and cheese

the Persians would applaud

but was this excessive

in Christian South Africa the after tears follow

I am always somehow backward

my latest paper on the excesses of the African elite
the first you and I will never discuss

how I long to dance Burial with other diasporics


your youngest granddaughter now dances and sings
hot Afrobeats in global tongues

I sing them now watching Peter Sedutia’s Aloevera

a woman in the film asks a man why he lied
his response it came naturally

a headmaster who likes free labour

a village divided because it couldn’t
let go

was there really a time when divisions could be sutured by love

letting go

ma’ano for the Anishnabek Cree

what you and I shared
the last time we met

thank you for waiting


16 young men at a picnic in Moshi
one waving at the camera

gramophone-piercing piccolo trumpet of ancient Egypt
stealing away me and my first dance partner

fire in your eyes
mixed with rare eland calm
after our climb to Mandara

coffee tea spices mogo in a Munnar market and pure exuberance in
the last postcard you sent me

billet doux
I send you


lifting my baggage
I put something out

today it has loosened

imagine being unfit for a fitness buff’s funeral

rock hard and cold surrendered at last to your softness

I am grateful to hug you farewell

COVID fear absent this time


body turned to Rockies river green

magpie flying frozen sky

wildebeests  zebras  gazelles  plying Serengeti

how you felt stranded    starved    not making tracks

your ultimate act

penultimate માફી

final migration     sole liberation

questions of the world
fed to the breeze


Anishnabek Cree: A first nation of Turtle Island now known as North America
Mandara: First base camp of Mount Kilimanjaro
Mogo: Kiswahili for cassava
માફી: Gujarati for Maafi, an Islamic act of asking for forgiveness. Various groups of Muslims do this in different ways at different life moments.

Photo by Salimah Valiani