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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Train to Kigoma--1975
By Emily Gibson
03/10/09


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A steam locomotive and passenger cars
Left over from British colonial days
Crosses central Africa daily;
Dar Es Salaam to Kigoma
From Indian Ocean to western shore of Lake Tanganyika
Carrying hundreds of Tanzanians
And four white Americans.

We depart on time, four hours late, whistle blowing,
A party atmosphere in third class.
Rows of benches with families
Spreading cloths, to sit together
Swapping meals and Swahili wisdom,
Singing and clapping
In celebration of easy mobility.

Seated on the outdoor platform
Between cars, I feel the humid air
Lighten and cool in the breeze
As the train makes its way through the plains;
Flat topped trees scattered in silhouette,
Dust clouds camouflage herds of wildebeest
Giraffe move slow motion, stirred to run.

Ujamaa villagers walk alongside the tracks
Women carrying heavy bundles balanced
With perfection upon their heads,
Babies wrapped in slings on their backs.
Men hoe in meager corn rows, stop to
Look up longingly at the passing train.
Children wave and laugh and run alongside.

Stops may be a few metal huts
A smelly latrine hole in the ground
Or a modern station with platform
Waiting room and parking lot.
Dodoma–growing and ambitious
Tabora–vestiges of British rule
Still linger, clinging to the land.

Moving onward to reach Kigoma
A sleepy village on a hillside
Overlooking the world’s deepest lake
Of shining cichlids and snapping crocodiles,
Miracle sunsets, then shimmering fisherman boat lights,
Open markets and cattle herded
Through red dirt main street.

I breathe deeply of Africa
Hearing chiming birdsong of liquid notes
The smells pungent and moist
Of chimpanzee musk, their tolerant gaze
As Americans stare, dazed, dazzled
At the spectacle of teeming life
In the multi-layered jungle.

It is a garden such as this
Where man began
It is plains such as this
Where man, nomadic, trudged, weary
It is land such as this
That blesses and curses,
Reclaiming always what has been taken away.


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This article has been read 587 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Fiona Dorothy Stevenson03/12/09
Although I couldn't get the rythym of this, I found it very descriptive of the place and people. God bless you.
Delores McCarter03/13/09
The imagery is well-defined in your prose. Very well done.
Karlene Jacobsen 03/17/09
The imagery is very vivid.
Rachel Rudd03/17/09
You used some very good descriptive language to put the reader in touch with the land. Well-written!
Ruth Ann Moore03/17/09
I enjoyed the descriptiveness of the scenery and people seen along the trip. I liked the story like quality to your writing.
Gary J. Borgstede03/17/09
Excellent details. Well written for the reader to experience the train ride across Africa.
Catrina Bradley 03/17/09
I'm not qualified to comment on the poetry aspect (I'll leave to the poets) but you painted an excellent portrait of Africa with your words.
Carol Slider 03/19/09
Very beautiful and descriptive... and the last stanza is absolutely superb! Very well done. Congratulations!
Sharon Kane03/19/09
Hearty congratulations on your EC. If you made this journey in 1975 you have an incredible memory. If not, you have an incredible imagination. You took the reader right in to the reality of African life. Well done.