“The Metaphors of Africa”
“Wishing Africa” is a poem in which many thought provoking metaphors are used
to make it come alive by giving the reader great illustrations. First of all what is a
metaphor? A metaphor is a figure of speech that make comparison between two unlike
things, without using the words like or as. Marilyn Brooks utilizes metaphor to shape
one of the most interesting and dramatic poems.
The essence of this poem lies within the
There are metaphors all through out “Wishing Africa,” but the first one is not a
metaphor but a simile becuase of the use of the word as. “The wind delicate as
Queen Anne’s lace” (4) is the first simile in the poem. This line is significant because it
helps to let the reader feel the poem, to feel Africa. It shows the gentle ways of the
environment, or the peacefulness of Africa.
This helps to show why the poetic voice
would want to go back. The next metaphor in the stanza is , “The women’s bodies were
variable as coral” (9). This is one of the most imaginative lines in the poem. It gives the
feeling of beauty, as if swimming underwater in the Great Barrier Reef, looking at all the
This is significant because the poetic voice is trying to show how
great and wonderful Africa was. It also serves as an illustration of the differences
between not just the women, but also ways of thinking. The woman may represent
different experiences the poetic voice has had since leaving Africa which has changed its
mind about the country and wishes it could go back there only one more time. Or they
could represent the different parts of Africa that the poetic voice misses so much.
The next stanza is a transition from the first. “I am threaded / with pale veins”
(13-14) is the first metaphor in the stanza. This is used to show why the poetic voice
cannot not return to the country it longs for. The words “threaded” (13) and “pale veins”
are the key concepts in the metaphor.
The word “threaded” (13) gives the image of pain.
There are numerous possible reasons for the pain, the only limitation is the readers
imagination. Also, when a piece of clothe is made, many pieces of thread are threaded
together, and there is no way to get a single thread out without destroying the whole piece
of clothe itself. Maybe the poetic voice is saying there is no way that he can get away
from his “pale veins” or past, his past being his heritage or skin color.
The word “pale”
(14) is used to illustrate that the poetic voice is white. It could be that he (poetic voice)
was a slave owner or trader when it was in Africa and now it realizes that what it did was
not right and is grief stricken. The next metaphor in the second stanza is, “I am full with
dying” (15). The key vocabulary here is obviously, “full of dying” (15).
the poetic voice’s sorrow for leaving Africa or his sadness for doing what he did while
in Africa. Think of being full with something, that something is all you think about, all
you know. Now think about being “full of dying,” all the poetic voice thinks about is
death and it torments him everyday. Or maybe the poetic voice killed many Africans
during his stay there and now it haunts him every second of his life as he tries to escape
The first metaphor in the third stanza is, “I grew meat in the earth’s blond side”
The key concepts are “grew meat” (25) and “earth’s blond side” (25). This
shows one aspect of what the poetic voice did while in Africa. “Grew meat,” (25) means
that he (the poetic voice) was a plantation owner that owned slaves, that grew fruit, hence
the word meat, the fleshy part of the fruit. “Blond side of the earth,” (25) refers to the
sunny or tropical climate of Africa.
The author used these terms because they provoke
thought and feeling with in poem by giving the reader the sense that the earth is alive. “I
did it all with little bloody stitches,” (26) is the next metaphor. This metaphor is
significant because it again shows the poetic voice’s sadness and regret. These “bloody
stitches,” (25) maybe the slaves the poetic voice used to do his work in Africa.
actual terms “bloody stitches” brings a whole other feeling to the poem.
This feelings greatly contrast from those of the first stanza. Bowering uses these words
because they suggest pain and suffering. The pain and suffering that the poetic voice
experiences everyday of his life due to the facts of what he did while in Africa.
Bowering uses the next line again to so how the poetic voice is unhappy with
what he did in Africa. “I am scented with virus,” (31) is the next metaphor. The key
terms in the line are “scented” (35) and “virus” (35). The word “scented” is used to show
thatthe poetic voice is tainted with what he did in Africa and cannot get away from it,
as if “scented” by a skunk.
The word “virus” is used becuase whenever a virus is thought
of death closely related to it. The poetic voice used Africans and killed Africans to do his
white man’s work. Again, the next line are not actually a metaphor because of the word
as, (it is a simile), but it is vital to the poem. “I am white as a geisha/ my roots
indiscriminate” (35-36), this line again goes back to the color of the poetic voices skin.
The image of a “geisha” (35) is used because it is a plant with white flowers. Bowering
continually brings up the image of white (referring to skin color) because it is key to
understand the poem to know that the poetic voice is a white person. The other key
concepts here are “my roots indiscriminate” (36). Bowering is trying to show that the
poetic voice is lost or confused.
The word “roots” (36) is there to illustrate the poetic
voice’s family line. Again, we as readers, are not sure his past, but all the metaphors and
simile help to give a picture of what the situation might be. The term “indiscriminate” is
key because it shows that the poetic voice doesn’t know where he comes from and
therefore doesn’t know where to go now.
Mayrilyn Bowering used many metaphors to make the poem “Wishing Africa.
These metaphors open and make the poem come alive with every word. She makesyou,
as the reader, think. The metaphors also make the reader feel the power of the words as
the come off the page and into your mind. Bowering’s “Wishing Africa” contains some
very imaginative and mind opening metaphors.