I paused by an oasis

that reflected the grey green

of an alien sky.

I scooped a mug full

of water out and purified it 

with clean and good tablets.

I sat on a multi-coloured rock

and relished the refreshing drink 

in the same way condemned men

enjoy their last meal.

I skimmed a few flat stones 

across the still water surface.

Ripples were non-existent.

I walked away shouting

'Is there anybody there!'

The silence is very loud.

Afzelia Quanzensis 

Ndola, Zambia

The Afzelia Quanzensis in Ndola

is a tourist attraction; protected 

by an iron fence with a locked gate.

Overhead branches spread past

security and the large leaves 

create an umbrella of shade . . .

Shade was always essential

for the men, women and children

from many different tribes 

who came together here.


between tribes was limited:

each had its own language

even down to the very name

of the tree they sheltered under.

The Kaonde people named it, 

Musambamfwa Nkulakazhi,

the Lamba called it Mupapa,

the Lunda word was Mwande.

The English later dubbed it

Pod Mahogany or Lucky Bean Tree.

Today the desolate aura of the trade 

conducted here is epitomised

with the vernacular name: 

The Slave Tree.

forgotten soul


by abandonment

she picks lichen from a tomb –

above a soakaway of bones –



Les Merton was made a Bard of Gorsedh Kernow in 2004 for services to Cornish Literature. He is the founder and editor of Poetry Cornwall and the author of seventeen books, six of which are poetry collections. 

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