The Lake Bunyonyi Poem

TRAVELLER
After a night in ruins at a late disco –
its relentless thump and monstrous decibel
pitched on nearly till dawn outside my window – 
I am come to Lake Bunyonyi, and all is well.

After a month of hurtling round Uganda –
my days stretched out in an endless pell-mell
of bus and over-filled taxi in road-delirium –
I am come to Lake Bunyonyi, and all is well.

After a life of wrenching round an obstruction
that’s always there, it seems – all through a spell
of seventy years, the days of man-in-transit –
I am come to Lake Bunyonyi, and all is well.

MEMORY
This is the lake of beauty and death.
Inhospitable to fish,
its picture-book looks
brim with a strange emptiness.
A guileless surface
harbours the cruellest of memories.
Do you see that island with a single tree?
Punishment Island.
Here unmarried pregnant girls were left
without food to die.
What was the punishment for the boys?
Oh, to provide enough obushera
for the elders to get drunk on.

HEREABOUTS
Good people live in these parts.
I meet Jeremiah
who for sixty years has healed with wild flowers.
Of the great bunch he carries he is a part.
I talk with Anna,
mother of ten, who makes from the reeds around her
baskets and mats, belts and purses and dolls.
A wiry toughness, the natural dye of kindness …
in her is the fibre of who we are.

AT THE END
Touching old age
I have known evil and good; and now, in all innocence,
I would abide by the ground rules of the land.
I shall make and offer my wild baskets of words.
Sometimes a phrase may give joy or heal. At the end –
somewhere outside, I pray, somewhere outside! – 
I shall be taken into a natural stillness.

MOVING ON
Whatever happens when I reach Kampala
the boda-boda motorbikes going like hell,
me clinging on the back saying poley poley – 
I have been to Lake Bunyonyi, and all is well.

Whatever happens when I reach my dotage –
though others cluck and fuss, or quietly yell
at my inanities – still I’ll remember
I have been to Lake Bunyonyi, and all is well.

Whatever happens when I meet my maker,
that’s no more than the world – I cannot tell
what my account may be, but here’s a reckoning: 
I have been to Lake Bunyonyi, and all is well.

photo by Marcus Westberg

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