Table of contents
Poem / Counterpoint

Coastal Eden

A poet interrogates the garden of Eden origin story by reimagining it against the backdrop of East Africa’s coastal environment.
Clear water streams down moss-covered rocks amid thick, luxurious vegetation with broad tropical leaves and bright red and yellow flowers.

Chris Dela Cruz/Getty Images

Coastal Eden - Listen

in the evening, frangipani fronds
unfurl their lemon-yellow
limbs into a cloud

that fills the garden. the
coastal breeze lifts palms
and verdant leaves
as if limp arms.

coastal current, not salty brine
but telluric, carrying memory
thwarting geography,
sea becoming alpine.

coastal gusts sweet
busy with heat, dizzying
twisting twisting

until they lie still under a sky
scattered with stars
burning hot.

the garden bears witness
holds court at dusk

where eve kneels, in tears,
wanting to know why her
and not the tree.

forgive the curved hips
of the apple, the fragranced
breath of the snake,
the testimony of the frangipani,
but not the tree.

she has seen the bloody future,
the tree’s inescapable guilt, hiding
what cannot be hidden

the harboring of strange fruit,
a foul hoard. strike of warped
sisal rope, voices on rotting paper,
wood-weighted coffins.

“why not the tree.
why me?”
the whispered response,
“why not?
you are damned

the hollowed tree whistles and sways,
frangipani retreats into sleep
holds still until day breaks.

Alma Simba is a writer, historian, and experimental sound artist interested in both the potentials and failures of words in capturing the human experience. Her subject matter is ancestral heritage and how Indigenous Black Africans can communicate and explore this history through oral traditions, memory, and imagination. Simba was awarded a B.A. in international history from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and she completed her M.A. in history at the University of Dar es Salaam with a focus on Tanzanian heritage housed in Germany. She was a “Sensitive Provenances” Research Fellow at the University of Göttingen in 2022 and is part of the Ajabu Ajabu audio-visual collection in Dar es Salaam.


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