The long road AW Oliphant and D Ruth

The poems and prose pieces in Africa! My Africa! are sequenced to flow along the straight open empty roads between far distant places, cutting through the various landscapes of exile, captivity, freedom, song, war and love. Here are two poems about coming home.

Coming home
Andries Walter Oliphant

He arrives with herring
and vodka
on his breath.
Time is dust
in his chest and throat.

There a polar bear snorts
over the shivering towns.
Here dogs bark
at the night car.
Light is a satellite.

In that upright sleeplessness
of travelling he held
his breath
and felt an eel coil in
in the red water of his chest.

It’s green in the garden
where the house
kneels in the season.
The doors are bolted
and the windows shut.

Between broken blocks
of dolomite and salt
the doorstep rises like a ridge.
He moves and
hears his shadow scream.

Bending under a rusting sky
he grasps
the hard earth
and quenches
his thirst with stones.

When I go home
Damian Ruth

When I go home
I’m going to find
a stretch of road
in the Karoo
that lies flat and straight for miles
I will come
over the crest of a koppie
and in the distance see
the windmill and its reservoir
next to the road.

I’ll sit on the koppie
and look at it.
On the other side of the earth
under the huge pale blue sky
will be a thin line of purple koppies.
I’ll hear the insects scratching
and maybe a hot exhausted stone
finally splitting.

I’ll walk slowly
towards the windmill
sometimes on the sticky black asphalt
sometimes next to it
kicking stones
and lifting puffs of dust.
I’ll climb through
the barbwire fence,
strip naked
and swim in the reservoir.
I’ll sit in the sun to dry.
After a while
I’ll climb back
through the barbwire fence
onto the road again.

I lived in South Africa
for twenty five years
and never did that once.

Photograph by DH Pinnock

Coming home from New Coin Volume 32, May 1996, Number 1. ISSN 0028-4459

Andries Walter Oliphant is a widely published poet, fiction writer, critic and cultural policy planner. He is Professor in Theory of Literature at the University of South Africa. He won the Thomas Pringle Award for Short Stories in 1991 and the Book Journalist of the Year Award in 1998.

When I go home by Damian Ruth from Song Makers compiled by J.G. Goodacre and S. Makosana, Maskew Miller Longman. ISBN 0-636-10347-2.


Coming home and When I go home are two of the poems included in Africa! My Africa!  an anthology soon to be printed in a limited, numbered edition of 5 000 copies to raise funds for Seed Readers.

Seed Readers is a project that will produce story books based on principles of peace, non-violence, non-racism and care of the earth. They will seed an understanding of our true role as custodians of the earth and oceans. They will inspire children to live ethically and in a sustainable manner.

All those who buy a copy pre-publication of Africa! My Africa! will be listed in the anthology (unless they wish to remain anonymous).

Please email to place your order
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One Comment on “The long road AW Oliphant and D Ruth”

  1. I love this poem by Damian Ruth and would love to get in touch with him again after two decades! Do you have his contact details. Patch.

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