Odyssey from Africa 11e

Odyssey from Africa, Chapter 11e, The Island Kingdom (continued)

Matto, Lisa and their parents 
Contemplated now a journey 
On the ocean that was longer 
Far than any in their memory 

One whole week upon the ocean 
Lay before them in the sail-boat
As a crewman bid them gather
Distributing food and water

At the stern a sort of shelter
Had been formed by stretching fabric
From the transom to the gunwales
And this shelter gave them refuge

From the rain and storm-blown sea spray 
From the arduous heat of noontime 
Here they slept in hours of darkness 
Guarded from the wind and weather

Later as the sun was sinking 
Han observed as from the crewmen 
One stepped forward holding high an
Artefact of detailed craftwork 

Wooden struts of perfect straightness
Held at angles by a bracket
Fashioned out of fire-wrought metal
Mounting polished metal mirrors

Now the sailors used this sextant
To establish their position 
Based upon the elevation 
Of the sun from the horizon 

(Later Han would learn to use the
Sextant for his navigation 
Sailing round the other-worldly
Coastline of the Island Kingdom) 

Four straight days and nights of sailing 
Brought them to a waypoint island 
That today we call Comoros
Halfway to the Island Kingdom 

Here the whole flotilla rested
Here refilled their flasks of water
And among the crowds of sea-birds
Spent a night on terra firma

On this island in the mountains
Lived Ipiki’s distant cousin
Livingstone’s enormous fruit bat
Soaring with a four-foot wingspan

After Comoros the wind turned
Favourably in strength and bearing 
So with three more days of sailing
They beheld the Island Kingdom 

Saw the land of Madagascar 
Fill the starboard's whole horizon 
Saw the earth's fourth largest island
Africa's tectonic sibling 

Now the ships prepared to clear the
Northern tip of Madagascar 
Wheeling south round what today is
Cape Andronovondronina

(That great island's wondrous place names
Long and beautiful to utter
Are a little hard to fit
Into inverse iambic rhythm!)

As they entered coastal waters
Matto and his sister Lisa
Stared intently in the water
Watching the abundant sea-life

Shoals of iridescent fishes
Captivated their attention 
Now and then a pod of sand sharks
Sped like golden ghosts beneath them

In the flickering blue-green half-light
Sharks of many kinds were sighted
With the ever-present sea snakes
As they neared the kingdom's shoreline 

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

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