Sonia Gomez

The Traveler's Sight

Here's the 1958 peak
of Kilimanjaro. As seen
from a small square,
an aircraft's sealed atmosphere.
He can see its cratered
lip, the unlikely
snows that might
easily be mistaken
for cloud.

An hour south
of the mountain
the six of them will
disembark in Dar es Salaam
in their black suits, too hot
for the palms and crowded streets.
At the New Africa Hotel
in a cool-sheeted bed
he dreams of the snowed volcano,
herds of animals
drifting the plains.
For the first time
he sees himself
somewhere else, begins
to measure distance with a kind
of scientific interest.
He doesn't yet know this
place. How, as he sleeps,
the very mechanism
of his eye changes.
How he looks different
in the morning's glare.

When he goes out
he sees the surface
of things until he catches
sight of himself in a shop
window shimmering in the cool
glass, and inside
the indistinct shapes
of a veiled woman,
a man robed in white,
bolts of cloth, pattern
a separate world.

Here's where the ocean
begins in the negative.
You can see the perfect
frame stilled, the light
bloomed onto film.
What you're unable to see
is his squint at the bright sun,
and his backward glance.
The mountain is cloud,
the land below
is threaded to the sea.
He watches the design
shift at takeoff.

Sonia Gomez grew up in Kenya and Zimbabwe. She now lives in Seattle, Washington.

The Journal of African Travel-Writing, Number 3, September 1997 (p. 80).

Copyright © 1997 The Journal of African Travel-Writing