Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab

Diana Raab
Author photo: Simon Raab  
In her quest for health of mind and body, Diana Raab travels to the heart of Africa with her family, experiencing the beauty of another world and the distress but also the delight and dignity of those, both human and animal, living in difficult conditions. She has recorded her observations in Listening to Africa, a collection of poems welcomed gratefully by early readers. Susan Wooldridge, the author of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words, has written that “Diana M. Raab makes a pilgrimage from the ‘familiar neon of home’ in America to Africa, bringing her family, her passion and her pen. Her moving words carry us with her in narrative poems replete with vision, humor and irony. In her inner and outer journey, the poet transforms fear and sadness into beauty and love as her heart opens ‘in this place which will remind you of your reason for living.’ ”  And this from Cara Nusinov, author of Unrequited Loves and Other French Kisses: “Diana M. Raab takes us on a joyous poetic journey of words and photos. She juxtaposes her wisdom, essential wellness and depth of feeling in exploring four-legged friends, illness, and hope, making this an extremely powerful collection.”
Listening to Africa cover
Cover art by Jim Edmon
courtesy of Getty Images



Diana M. Raab is an award-winning poet, memoirist and registered nurse who teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and at various conferences around the country. She is the author of three poetry collections, My Muse Undresses Me (2007); Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008), winner of The Reader Views Award and an Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award; and The Guilt Gene (2009). Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Rattle, Rosebud, Litchfield Review, Tonopah Review, Writers’ Journal, Common Ground Review, The Smoking Poet, A Café in Space, the Toronto Quarterly, Snail Mail Review, New Mirage Journal, Lucidity, Blood and Thunder, Jet Fuel Review, and Ascent. She’s editor ofi, winner of a 2011 Eric Hoffer Award and finalist for Best Books (USA Book News), and also co-edited (with James Brown) Writers on the Edge. Diana Raab’s memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal, won the 2008 National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir and the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction. Her self-help memoir, Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey, won the 2011 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction. For more information, visit her website:

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ISBN 978-1-936482-18-4

Copyright © 2012 by Diana M. Raab

6" x 9" paperback, 80 pages





48-Hour Travel

Should you decide
to take a safari here

you might want to consider
packing some meager comforts of home,

even though they will do little
to protect you from

such haunting newness.
But still, take a two-day supply of patience,

ear plugs, sleeping pills, a few good books,
a thick journal and a pound of prevention,

the comprehensive pill bag
with compartments for each ail.

If you plan on foreign intimacy,
don’t rely on public bathrooms

to supply your protection—
be prepared with your own custom size.

For game rides, snatch volumes
of insect repellant and sunscreen

and a wrinkled ribbed hat,
to shield your neck
from the last blow
of the jungle’s sunset

in this place which will
remind you of the reason for living.


Digestive Paranoia

All drinks and foods
echo travelogue warnings,

specified by tropical disease doctors
written with daunting stories

of the perils of lifelong parasites
and flat admonishments

about this disease-infested land.
I reflect upon the Aztecs and Indians

decimated by steel and germs
and I fear the revenge of the aborigines

passed out invisibly during handshakes,
while my latent cancer cells

which I carry in my mind and marrow,
must never be awakened

under the stars of this dark continent.
I slip through my day

and suckle from sealed bottles
with an ongoing digestive paranoia.


Mischievous Monkeys

This morning as I sat reading my book
inside the empty breakfast tent,
my eyes caught some stirrings
on a buffet of exotic cheeses.

A family of funny monkeys
from a neighboring tree were tempted
by this edible fermentation, as they
sprang themselves onto
the decorated elongated table.

I stood up and tip-toed in their direction.
After another monkey spotted me
and stared deep into my green eyes,
warning me to leave, he tossed

himself onto a nearby branch,
cheese dangling from his primate mouth.
The hostess announced her presence
and clapped them away while another rascal
dropped slippery green grapes to the ground

and scurried up yet another tree.
He glanced back at me like a naughty child
who understands a forehead
written with punishment,

like the one given to my children
during their own mischievous moments.

Here in this African jungle,
I do not want to be a parent—
all I want to do is chuckle
and slowly sip my coffee
and skip along with my day.


Disease Dance

While traveling this continent,
my safari pants’ pockets
brim with Western remedies

to fend off threatened diseases
as germs and parasites conspire against me
within the waters and dense canopies.

We breathe and touch
strange sleeping and sucking ails,
unknown and unspeakable

on every fearsome occasion.
I reach down for the disinfectant
but do not want to touch the spot

laden with lurking dangers.
Under my breath I give thanks
to all the scientists who stand single file

awaiting kudos for their
germ-killing chemicals
nestled between me and the fatal demons.


Dung Beetles

It is an early Botswana morning
and the dew clings to the mellow marsh.

Through our binoculars
we scan for animals, while our driver

points down to dung beetle tracks.
As a city girl, I see only a bare swamp,

until this round tennis-ball-size
mound of mud transports itself

across a closed concave path.
While my naked eyes morph into magnifiers,

the beetle pushes along, as his female
clings for life onto the perimeter of this ball

of elephant dung once mistaken for mud.
Mr. Dung rolls his straight school ruler’s edge line,

and he advances as fast as he can.
As he propels forth his breeding ground,

I wonder what it might look like
if I rolled my king-sized bed up Fifth Avenue

during my own mating season.


Departure Morning

As we gather our belongings
hunched over suitcases

set for the trip home, I glance
down at my five pairs of safari shorts,

warm wool socks and rain jackets
and wonder about their future use.

At breakfast we hear our guide
speak of once-a-month ten dollar bus rides

to visit families, and my heart
bleeds into his story

as I realize how there is really little we can do
to redress his life here in Zimbabwe

where houses are vandalized, burned
and run down and where natives

labor long hours for food
or clothing and where currency

holds no meaning.
I march to my tent and grab

the laundry basket hidden beneath my bed
to pile my safari clothes, folded in neat piles.

I tromp up the hill grasping its handles
to tell our guide that my stuff is for his people.

He turns around and hugs me tight
and with a shattered sense of love says,

“You made me a spiritual millionaire!”—
And I feel my blood bubble with joy.


Trip Summary

You can have the Bahamas, Figi, and Belize.
You can have Club Med and Pebble Beach Golf Resort.

Now, the only place that tugs me is a
faraway world with hidden surprises,

where barefoot young pilots
land and take off on short gravel runways

as sweat drips from my brow of curiosity.
So return the fluffy softened towels,

perfumed personally wrapped soaps,
roll-on suitcases and collapsible luggage racks

and take in nature singing at sunrise,
lighting the dance of barefoot smiling maids

lugging buckets of homemade detergents
down long winding wooden paths,

fresh-baked breads and open markets.
They will bestow you with memories

guaranteed to make you weep, even
if you live your time there in unforgettable fear.


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