African Wise Man

We walked together
with many smiles on those dusty Kenyan roads.
You taught me how to see
through your African face. We laughed. We wept.

I was a young, 28-year-old, hot-headed foreigner,
but you patiently led me by the hand
and showed me your home, taught me your language and customs.
You were my multilingual interpreter.

You were wise, and I, often, foolish.
So many times, I tested you,
challenged by my inability to patiently listen.
You deferred
and heard between the lines for me.

Your smile was always on the ready,
a palliative measure against my frustration.
You were the consummate diplomat.

You were the wise old man of twenty-five —
I, the American
who was supposed to know everything.

Right? What a joke.

You were also a tough footballer with feet like iron.
That afternoon on Shibuli field,
I was supposed to be the striker.
You accidentally confused the side of my knee for the ball.
I was hobbled on a crutch for a year.  Ouch.

We always enjoyed each other’s company.
You became my best friend. I believe you felt the same of me.

You understood I was the lost child there.
You guided me patiently
and taught me how to love Africa
despite my culture shock.

That sad day, you went to your last bed of pain.
Diabetes unwound you
until your black eyes disappeared behind your smile forever.  You faded away.
You were a friend of the Savior.
He carried you across in peace.
Now you know the whole story.

A piece of me left with you. O Francis Imbayi.

My eyes see more now because you once knew me
as a friend – and I knew you,
African wise man.

 

Brian Hodgkinson Jr. 2007

africanamerican cultureTravels

◄ Living in the Real World

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Comments

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Brian Hodgkinson

Thu 4th Feb 2021 07:15

THank you for checking in, Keith, much appreciated. My friendship with Francis was (and is) one of the greatest treasures of my life.

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keith jeffries

Tue 2nd Feb 2021 11:57

A poem of deep appreciation and personal devotion to someone much loved. Very well written and with gratitude for true friendship

Thank you for this

Keith

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