Peter Jarvis, born into an early-settler family in Mashonaland, Zimbabwe, was educated there and in South Africa. He did postgraduate studies in Scotland at St Andrews and later Stirling universities. He worked in African education in Zimbabwe, then in Fife for 25 years. More than half of his heart is in Africa. These evocative poems take the reader there too.
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Kubu, hippo-hump of rocks and trees,
lone island in Makgadikgadi salt pan,
once a lake as large as Switzerland.
Today the lake’s an ash-grey stain,
a sloughed skin, a single sheet
of salt-encrusted mud.
The island cherishes a freight of ghostly baobabs.
On warm November nights they bloom, unearthly.
First the smell. Putrefying, sickly-sweet.
Then the flowers—pendulous, singular, waxy white.
They begin to drop with gentle dunts,
huge crinkled petals, fast bruised and browning.
They muscle out wide from ovoid pods
to flaunt multiple stamens, crude flashers,
hot for pollinating bats.
The moon breaks through, turning the pan pewter,
the flowers into mimicking lanterns. Time
to take to the tents, listening out for blossom-bombs.