Canyon of Mirrors

A Tribute to the Fish River Canyon, Namibia

I. Stop the Clocks

We descend through aeons
Layer by layer
Swallowed by the ancient snake
Wandering along the arteries of our thirsty Mother

Stop the impatient clocks!
Enter into geological time
Strip off the manic masks of civilization
Step into soul land

Invisible life weaves the fabric of our path
Footprints upon dusty spoor
Clawed and cloven

Scorching sun
Refreshing river
Rest brings relief to muscles strained

A symphony of silence settles
A veil of red rays ushers in the bride of darkness
Her black dress laced with sequin stars
Her shadowed neck hung with lunar pendant

We dance into our dreams …
And awake to a new world

II. We Are Alive

We winch ourselves out of cosy cocoons
Creaking with rusted joints and aching limbs
Until motion oils and massages us forward
On our wilful march

Slipping and sliding
Splashing and crashing
Stumbling and tumbling …

We bruise
We bleed
And know we are alive

‘Cross shimmering stone and shifting sand
‘Neath searing sun and crumbling cliff;
Through the barren bad-lands
The sombre sad-lands
The curséd mad-lands!

Every drop of energy sucked and sapped
‘Til at last we call a halt

The swallows dip and dive
The fish eagle cries
We have survived!

The fire licks our wounds

III. That Sinking Feeling

The scenery blurs beneath the unforgiving blaze

Quicksand tugs at our ankles
Rock shards stab at our feet
The elusive horizon taunts us
The eternal “why” haunts us

A regal heron and nervous hare take flight
Bright, cheerful flowers bloom
Where there seems no right to life

Then the desert erupts into a gushing waterfall
Flowing down to majestic pools and through intricate channels
With the fluid hand of a master sculptor

Inviting respite from pain and progress
The icy river injects life back into our numb senses

The sun bows out to thunderous riverine applause

IV. A Promise of Out

Over the hump and into the canyon funnel
As sentry baboons bark: “Intruder alert!”
And klipspringers glide across the ragged stage like graceful ballerinas –
The wasteland blues are behind

Our ephemeral thoughts and mood are lighter
But our feet must still plod painfully onward
Through unforgiving terrain
Every step a burden of weight and pressure

Spiral etchings on the glossy plastic jet-black rockscape
Hint at travellers gone before
Perhaps ancient

A pair of fish eagles ride the thermals
With mocking grace and ease
At peace with land, water, sky

The watchful crags let slip their eroded disguise …
Sphinx, tusker, leopard, ape …
Then shimmy back to inanimate rock once more

At last, the distant peninsular summit
Explodes into expectant view:
Home on the rise
A promise of out

V. The Final Ascent

We rise early
Teetering on the fragile cusp between night and day
With finishing fever pulsing in our veins

The towering landscape flows beneath our eager tread
As we succumb to the magnetic pull of civilisation
Amidst vivid visions of all that is familiar and comfortable
Human prints and scattered litter show the way

The gift of orange seems heaven sent
Our turbo fuel for the final ascent

Step by step, we drum
The slow, steady rhythm of the climb
Driven by an unquenchable inner fount
Of strength and hope

Peering faces over the ledge
Are all the reassurance we need
To soar on chill-wind and chain
And clasp our holy grail

We are done
We have endured
Our old life back
Is our reward

Yet after the canyon of mirrors
We see through new eyes

Wayne Visser © 2017


I Am An African: Favourite Africa Poems

This creative collection, now in its 5th edition, brings together Africa poems by Wayne Visser, including the ever popular “I Am An African”, as well as old favourites like “Women of Africa”, “I Know A Place in Africa”, “Prayer for Africa” and “African Dream”. The anthology celebrates the luminous continent and its rainbow people. The updated 5th Edition includes new poems like “Africa Untamed” and “Land of the Sun”. Buy the paper book / Buy the e-book.