With various stories floating around the last few weeks regarding President Obama's trip to South Africa, I've been reminiscing about our Wabash trip last fall. I also discovered a poem I wrote on the plane ride back from South Africa. I doubt much of it will translate, but hopefully the theme will come through. I was inspired by the awesome experience of this elephant above appearing out of the brush in a wild game preserve. This formidable animal came striding towards our open-top transport vehicle, stood in front of us a moment - just long enough to define our place. Then the elephant moved on. I was immediately struck by its silent determination and subtle yet profound strength. It immediately became a symbol of the King and the Kingdom of God to me, something that would not be "denied or dismissed." I was also impressed by the liquid sorrow of the elephant's eyes and the thousand-creased skin. It's face seemed a representation of all the tragedy I had witnessed and heard of in the heart of South Africa.
The Bull Elephant in the African Brush
Out of the bush it strides,
in mass and alone;
It twinges and stretches,
its tusks turned and tilted,
its almond eyes crying inside its
leather-patched, hardened hide.
The bull alerts itself and its predicament,
fanning and fronting to its onward course,
not to be deterred.
It strides past the seven-mile cesspool,
walks its way through the saffron and dust
of the stricken-street,
Walks across the squalor and shambles,
of zinc and tender dry
sticks stacked as refuse and refuge,
Across the further lands of Cape Town's mall,
past the merriment and morbidity of the system
the Xhosa serve,
Of spinning wheel and
of Waterfront and white.
It walks beyond the unspoken, unseen borders
of every shantytown
that mars and marks the African veld,
Past the teeming tarnish,
The troubled and troubling
Gehenna of Khayelitcha,
It sniffs the poisoned, polluted air -
at its expanding and expansive tenement, baking
in the valley beneath the dialectic
and soteriology, and sin,
Then turns its head
towards its beckoning point,
to its home-bound boundary
Of which the whole creation waits and groans,
And strides again.
It marches on past the tourists and the tribal troubadours,
Past Zuma's cronies and capitalists,
Past the Afrikaaners turned aristocrats.
Past the twenty Rand trick,
The sex-inducing blonde,
The soul-worn umfundizi,
The medicine man who stares out
his Rustenburg shack
with his ailing eyes,
Enchanting his inadequate summons of salve
While his daughters' daughters wither and die.
It marches past the bishop holding his
creamy, careful hands
palm flat upon the screaming, scalding
skin of another shanty girl -
Riven and riddled by men and disease, raped by father
and gold and market and
the million greeds that yawn across the never closing market
from corner to continent,
from godless domains
of powers and principalities
Entrenched as postmodernism's modern gods.
Its eyes cry in silence - probing to the depths
the degraded humiliation,
the deplorable degrees of devastation,
And marches somehow onwards still.
It pulses and pushes its Herculean
not to be denied or dismissed,
but persistent and proud.
So goes its will; its might,
under the African sun and
aching, ailing earth,
crying silently its
Groaning for creation's renewal,
which has been promised