When the Masai were removed from their country in Kenya to a reservation, they transferred all the names for their hills and plains and rivers to the new land.
I stroll by calm, unruffled waters,
Still known to all as Babbling Brook.
The name contents us, past all telling,
Although it bars too close a look.
And here we run through Happy Valley,
Where veldt and sward are withering.
Felicitous, you "Happy Valley"!
Your memory is everything.
Then off to prowl the woods primeval.
Watch banded birds in well-trimmed park,
Where hewn broad arrow signs replace
"Umgai loves Boolu" on the bark.
Whose woods these are I think I know,
Though words float so before my eyes
I think that I shall never see the trees
Which nomenclature so transmogrifies.
By keeping names, our tribe preserves
Beliefs, both plain and mystic.
So much of our, and every, world
Turns out to be linguistic.
New Englander Philip Hughes divides his time between weight lifting, college teaching, and intellectual researches. His prose and poetry have appeared in several past issues of this magazine.
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