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If I Know a Song of Africa

Taryn King | Sayantan Halder

With a sigh, we wrap our arms around each other, heads bent together, and watch the waves of the ocean carry our dreams out to sea, knowing that someday they will wash up on the shore of a land that once called us its own.

In those moments when we are ripped away from one reality into another, there is an aching left behind, as though each time a bit more of you was torn off; hoping to be pieced together again on the other side of the world. We talk about returning, together this time, but as we make plans that melt into the African sun, I know that we can never go back. You quote Karen Blixen at me, of songs and lost lands. And I only look at you and say, “Africa takes a part of you, and never lets it go.”

It happens to us both, a sudden transportation to a place that seems barely real, the only reminder that once upon a time, we lived in Africa. It happens at the worst of times, sometimes even dangerous. I’ve watched you stop in the middle of a street, the sweet scent of Lantana taking you back to a beaten path high on a Kenyan hillside—surrounded by a pressing heat, and lush green vegetation. On an autumn hike up Old Rag Mountain, I pulled you away from the summit overlook, knowing that rather than seeing the Shenandoah, you were staring out at the Great Rift Valley.

We dance on the beaches in the late afternoon sun and huddle together in the crisp hours of darkness. I look at your pale glowing face beside me, and shift closer to the warmth of the flames, digging my toes into the cool piles of sand. As crackling embers shoot into the night sky, I find myself sitting in front of a different fire, surrounded by dark faces and the chatter of a language that only makes sense in its hellos and goodbyes. The smell of charred corn hits my nose, and I touch the powdered red dirt beside me as I look up into a celestial sky that only reveals itself in the remote corners of the world. It is a quick sensation, like blurred images of film stilled for half a moment. Someone hits play again, and I’m back — looking into your knowing eyes.

About Taryn King

Taryn King is a MFA student at Lindenwood University. She lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her husband and son.

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