you are in the diode archives fall 2010



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.


A Brief History of Okra (Master’s Take)

Discovered in her wild state
on the flood-plain of the Nile,
Okra arrived at Port of New Orleans
circa 1700:
Germs stored in a drum.


Start Okra from seed.  She does not transplant
well.   She’s best planted
in Southern soil, after all danger
of frost has passed.


RULE OF THUMB: Keep them
separated. Okra seeds are large, easy
to handle, but they need
warm weather to grow well. 

In Northern climes, you won’t have
much of a crop.


Picking pods while wet
may darken their skin.
Which might make them seem bitter
at first.  But really, their taste
is unaffected. 


Unlike her fairer cousin, Cotton,
Okra’s showy yellow flower
blooms just one day a year:

Just make sure that day
don’t last
too long.  


M. Ayodele Heath is author of Otherness, which is forthcoming in 2010 from Brick Road Poetry Press.  A graduate of the MFA program at New England College, he is recipient of fellowships to Cave Canem and the Caversham Center for Artists in South Africa. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Mississippi Review, Mythium, and The New York Quarterly. His awards include a 2009 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize in Poetry and an Atlanta Bureau for Cultural Affairs Emerging Artist grant. He lives and writes in Atlanta.