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M. Ayodele Heath

Years: 2010



An Atlanta native, M. Ayodele Heath, is author of Otherness (Brick Road Poetry Press). Ayodele has been featured at such venues as the National Black Arts Festival, the Nuyorican Poets Café, the Turner Trumpet Awards, and TurnerSouth’s MySouth Speaks television campaign. Ayodele’s awards include: Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs Emerging Artist grant, Pushcart Prize nominee,McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at Georgia Tech, Fellowship to the Caversham Centre for Artists (South Africa), Cave Canem fellow. His poetry has appeared in RHINO, Callaloo, the New York Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Mississippi Review, International Gallerie (India), and the anthology Poetry Slam: the Competitive Art of Performance Poetry. Visit him online at 




Dusk of the Afrikaner

Aku’langa latshona lingenanduba.

                        - Zulu proverb




1        ONCE UPON A TIME, WHEN TIME was measured in the length of shadows, I met a woman–on a dirt road much like this one—who did not know the smell of rain.  

2        How sad, she said to no one.  I want to know it.

3        Her long Zulu eyes were not nearly as long as her gaze, on this day, impossibly February: heat billowing in waves; the once-White sun finally lowering among the aloes, by great pallbearers of Light, into the ground.

4        On the day I met this umfazi, I stumbled over her shadow & felt a sudden chill.  Sure & black as thunderclouds.

5        Far beyond the townships, beyond rivers of dust with no memory of the sea, her gathering shadow was easily the longest I’d ever seen.  It must have been the longest in the world. 

6        As a desert without clouds, she said. As a sleep without dreams.

7        Such a shadow must have meant she was very old.  Perhaps, the oldest woman in the world. 

8        But I am not, she said, as if burning the pages in my eyes.       




1        THEN, LIKE A MIGHTY black river of Night, the umfazi’s shadow fell across the Earth, crushing the aloes & the hills & the trees.  & all throughout Zululand, the blackest nightmare of one became the other’s dream.

2        & the sky wept. 

3        Like one who has not wept for centuries might weep, she said.  With the kind of weeping which feels like thunder, which makes the earth shudder, which portends the end of days.

4        & some ran for shelter. & some ran for the sea. But millions more had waited lifetimes for this storm.  Through moon, through sun, they clutched the aching earth. 

5        Till rain & mud, she said, became tears & blood.

6        & there they stood.  As ones who have not stood for centuries might stand. As if standing for something, she said. As if suddenly aware of the straightness of their own posture.

7        Then they raised their faces like black moonflowers till the whole of Zululand was ablaze with Midnight

8        & stars rained from her tongue—this witness, this poet—so moved she was by their forgotten beauty.