“Really I don’t think anything can be done for Africa.” David lived on the island of Jersey, off the coast of France, and had a job finding tax breaks on British real-estate for Brazilian soccer stars and Russian oil-magnates. “It’s pathetic really,” he went on between bites of pizza. “In fact, I think AIDS is the best thing that ever happened to Africa.”
It was our last dinner together; fifteen of us at a long table overlooking the Indian Ocean, drinking tonics in a tourist front restaurant owned by rich Italian investors. I stared blankly, away from the others, and watched as a thin mangy kitten whined pathetically as it made its way between the tables.
That morning I had taken a walk away from the water, into a town of dry roads and brick storefronts. Tall men leaned against shaded walls that housed sundries, t-shirts and colorful swaths of batik cloth. An eerie emptiness pervaded the place. There were no food-stalls, water pumps, goats or children. Everywhere in Africa you hear the bright cries of children rising behind you, waving their hands.
Once I reached the shore I found them: a bevy of children surrounded a giant leatherback, breaching itself in the opal surf. Their dark bodies ran up against the tide, arms flailing and overlapping into triangles, crosses, boxes collapsing across the white sand.
Eugenia Hepworth Petty’s poems and photographs have appeared in literary journals in Asia, North America and Europe. A chapbook of her prose poetry (Pamyat Celo/Memory Village) was published in 2007. You may find more of her work by clicking here.