In Memory of Imbayi Francis
We walked together
with many smiles on those dusty Kenyan roads.
You taught me how to see
through your African face. We laughed. We wept.
I was a young, 28-year-old, hot-headed foreigner,
but you patiently led me by the hand
and showed me your home, taught me your language and customs.
You were my multilingual interpreter.
You were wise, and I, often, foolish.
So many times, I tested you,
challenged by my inability to patiently listen.
and heard between the lines for me.
Your smile was always on the ready,
a palliative measure against my frustration.
You were the consummate diplomat.
You were the wise old man of twenty-five —
I, the American
who was supposed to know everything. Right? Nope.
You were also a tough footballer with feet like iron.
That afternoon on Shibuli field,
I was supposed to be the striker.
You accidentally confused the side of my knee for the ball.
I was hobbled on a crutch for a year. Ouch.
We always enjoyed each other’s company.
You became my best friend. I believe you felt the same of me.
You understood I was the lost child there.
You guided me patiently
and taught me how to love Africa
despite my culture shock.
That sad day, you went to your last bed of pain.
Diabetes unwound you
until your black eyes disappeared behind your smile forever. You faded away.
You were a friend of the Savior.
He carried you across in peace.
Now you know the whole story.
A piece of me left with you. O Francis Imbayi.
My eyes see more now because you once knew me
as a friend – and I knew you,
African wise man.
Brian Hodgkinson Jr. 2007