Monday, 3 September 2018

I met a thief - A.S. Bukenya

On the beach, on the coast,
Under the idle, whispering coconut towers,
Before the growling, foaming, waves,
I met a thief, who guessed I had
An innocent heart for her to steal.

She took my hand and led me under
The intimate cashew boughs which shaded
The downy grass and peeping weeds.
She jumped and plucked the nuts for me to suck;
She sang and laughed and pressed close.

I gazed: her hair was like the wool of a mountain sheep
Her eyes, a pair of brown-black beans floating in milk.
Juicy and round as plantain shoots
Her legs, arms and neck;
And like wine-gourds her pillowy breasts;
Her throat uttered fresh banana juice:
Matching her face — smooth and banana-ripe.

I touched  — but long before I even tasted,
My heart had flowed from me into her breast;
And then she went — High and South —
And left my carcase roasting in the fire she'd lit.

Austin S. Bukenya (born 1944) Uganda
Source: Poems from East Africa, selected by David Cook and David Rubadiri, East African Publishers, 1996

36 comments:

  1. One of the best poems I've interacted with. It carried my imagination towards the beach, under the cashew boughs and peeping green grass. And I got lost in it! I roused myself up just in time to realise it was a dirty, misleading reverie.

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  2. The first poem I read at the university

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  3. Bruce, thanks. This is a good collection. See my poems too at: https://ugandabeinsanfrancisco.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks Tom - I will certainly check out your blog and post one or more of your poems here (assuming that's OK?)

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  4. Someone to identify the styles used here

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  5. Hi. I'm not an expert, but here's what I would say about the poem's style:
    1. It's in blank verse (i.e. doesn't rhyme)
    2. The third stanza uses a lot of nature metaphor to describe the woman, this is similar to Song of Solomon in the Bible, but also a lot of classic African poetry uses nature symbolism
    3. It uses contrasting juxtaposition quite a lot, e.g. " idle, whispering" versus "growling, foaming" in stanza 1 and in the final stanza his [living] heart is transformed into his [dead] carcase
    4. Overall the imagery used is very visceral and vivid - you can almost feel and see the things he's describing

    I hope that helps

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  6. The first question came to my mind is that:
    Who is a thief being talked about?
    Finally, I recognized that it was a woman whom the poet felt in love with.unfortunately, she went away and left him alone.

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  7. Impressive and very creative., wonderful choice of words.

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  8. This swt piece explains how swt falling in love is

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  9. What a lovely poem, certainly among my favourites

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  10. I like the artistic quality in this poem

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  11. Of what race is the persona?

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    1. If you are asking about the poet himself, you can find out more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Bukenya

      If you're asking about the people in the poem, then for me the story it tells is eternal and the race of the two people is not really relevant. Hence the woman is only described as having curly hair (like a sheep's) and dark brown eyes (like beans floating in milk). I suppose you could say they are African because the poet is African (from Uganda); but does it really mater?

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  12. Am in high school doing these questions about the poem...someone please help
    1.What is the relevance of the title of the poem?
    2. What is the race of the thief according to the poem?

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    1. I assume these are questions you have been set to think about for yourself, so I won't answer them directly, but I'll give you some pointers that hopefully will help you :)
      1. What is the relevance of the title of the poem?
      The thing to think about here is what is meant by “a thief” – who or what is the thief, why are they a thief, what did they steal?
      The clue to the thief are the lines “who guessed I had / An innocent heart for her to steal” and “she went — High and South — / And left my carcase roasting in the fire she'd lit” – what is the thief stealing?

      2. What is the race of the thief according to the poem?
      There are two main clues to her race: “her hair was like the wool of a mountain sheep” and “Her eyes, a pair of brown-black beans floating in milk” – this tells us she has curly hair and dark brown eyes. Another less direct clue is the setting: clearly this is a tropical beach because of the plantains and coconuts.

      Good luck with your analysis.

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    2. Thank you.

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  13. 1 What is the subject matter of the poem?
    2 Comment on the setting of the poem
    3 Identify the images and their effectiveness to the poem

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    1. There are a lot of questions that have been asked about this poem so I guess it's a standard text at school or college! For this reason I will not give direct answers to your questions because then you are not doing the thinking, and my guess is that this is what you are supposed to do :)

      So I hope this is helpful:
      1. In stanza 1: "I met a thief, who guessed I had / An innocent heart for her to steal" - what is the thief stealing? In stanza 2, what happens? In stanza 4: "I touched — but long before I even tasted, / My heart had flowed from me into her breast" - what is his reaction? And finally "And then she went ... / And left my carcase roasting in the fire she'd lit." - what is the outcome?
      If you can answer these questions, a small "story" will be revealed, and this type of story is one that has a general descriptive name (for example one might call a story about pirates and treasure maps "an adventure", or a story about a person who's love has been spurned "unrequited love".)

      2. The setting is very vividly described - you should be able to pick it out from the many descriptions, such as the very first line. Also see my comment on question 3 below.

      3. I'll give one example and leave you to pick out the others! "Under the idle, whispering coconut towers, / Before the growling, foaming, waves,"

      The imagery here engages three senses: visual (coconut TOWERS, FOAMING waves); auditory (whispering coconuts, growling waves); then you have the word IDLE which both describes the movement (i.e. not much, so the wind can't have been very strong - hence the sense of touch as you feel the wind). Also there's the emotional feeling (i.e. idleness as in not doing anything very much). Overall the mixture is very effective because several senses are involved to bring the image to life: you can see, hear and feel the scene: the light (idle) wind, the gently waving, whispering coconut palms and the sound of waves "growling" on the beach, and also get a glimpse of the poet's state of mind at the start (idle).

      I hope that helps. Good luck with your assignment.

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  14. Seruyange Marvin23 August 2020 at 10:12

    My best poem in all
    Am in ferocious love with it indeed...

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  15. What a nice poem!!Though toi may help me with some question

    a.Poetry is universal and natural.How is it represented in this poem?
    b.Poetry is spontaneous overflow of emotions.How is it represented in this poem?

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  16. What is the theme of the poem

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  17. It's among the best poems .I love it

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  18. This is a love poem though it seems that it finally went sour to the speaker.

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