Southern Africa has been in the grip of a drought for the past fifteen to eighteen months. The realisation of the severity of the drought and the resultant disruption to farming have become very apparent to the nation, in the form of steadily increasing food prices, since the beginning of 2016. The other, more horrendous, effects of the drought have been less well publicised but come to the fore every now and then. Pictures of livestock dying of starvation due to the lack of any form of greenery, dry and muddy dams and pictures of wild animals in the game reserves, lying defeated and immobile, too lacklustre to make the necessary move to a different part of the park that has had some rain and has some vegetation. Of course, all things come to an end. We are very hopeful that the last few weeks of heavier rainfall are a signal that the drought is coming to an end. In Africa, however, there is no subtlety. The rains have come in great, heavy torrents of water and, in some case, hail, accompanied by deafening thunder and loud and bright bolts of lightening. These violent evening thunderstorms inspired me to write the following poem. I was also influenced by the wonderful sight of the arum lilies in my garden, carefully tendered by my mother, which look so clean and bright after an evening downpour. Arum lilies are the flowers most commonly used at funerals and I attempted to weave this irony into the poem as well. I also created a lovely arum lily out of fondant to compliment the imagery of my poem.
An African thunderstorm
One God glares at another, with a dreadful frown;
They charge, ripping the clouds, the rain falls down;
Their barbaric battle cries, rent the thick, heavy night air;
Lightning bolts, brilliant streaks, through the night skies tear;
An African thunderstorm is a violent and ferocious fight;
The water floods, as if the drought’s effects, in one great effort, to right;
Howling winds shake the trees, quickly devoiding them of leaves;
Hail hammers down, stripping petals from flowers like thoughtless thieves.
The next morning, the clouds hang low, promising more rain;
Such a relief from the heat and dust that could drive you insane;
The earth smells damp and musky, with water swollen and fat;
Despite the hails devastation, for the rain we roll out the welcome mat;
One solitary white arum lily peeps out from beneath an eave;
A single drop, like a tear of gratitude, for the water we did receive,
rests right at its tip, a poignant reminder of what drought leaves in its wake;
Shrivelled vegetation, dead livestock and communities that the land forsake.
by Robbie Cheadle