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Lisa Ratnavira

Weebale Uganda


Red headed weaver birds, blue turacos

drunken monkeys and baboons

flowers draping on sausage trees

rain and clay earth

tasting rolex and matoke

sipping on Stoney and passion fruit juice

Papyrus woven with broad bill rollers and sunbirds in African tulip trees

friendly welcoming roadside markets

chimpanzees in troops

     grooming, mating and caring for their young in between daydreams and building nightly nests.

Gaboon vipers and forest cobras are dangerously beautiful

Camouflage in Barongi swamp

lives the blanding tree snake

near gray crowned cranes, hornbills and paradise flycatchers

African forest elephants, leopards, hippos and zebras command observation and wonder

Trekking gorillas at the Bwindi impenetrable forest awakened an awareness never before unveiled.

These reminders to observe and be present

aware of natural wonders

and an appreciation for its power

Weebale Uganda

for these moments

we will hold in our memories.


*weebale = thank you

Observation at Mabamba Swamp


Among the purple lilies and the papyrus

Sitting in a canoe observing a female shoebill stork

Searching for lungfish in the Mabamba Swamp

A butterfly undulates by flashing orange, white and black

In the hot humid sun,

Bird calls of purple herons and jacanas surround us

The blue headed coucal balances this symphony

A purple heron flies above

Clap clap announces the shoebill

searching for watersnakes and mudfish

Elusive and commanding over 3 feet in stature

Her eggs and young fear green water snakes and monitor lizards

But once full grown there remain no predators

Except for mankind as there are currently only

10 adults with 3 babies amidst this swamp dense with foliage

The tour guides paddle us in with canoes remaining a respectful distance

Honoring and sanctifying this stork laden with gray feathers

Varied and adorning crests

A shoe shaped blue hued bill with a hook on its beak

for hunting and penetrating it’s kill, we remain

Observing, photographing, binoculars and cameras

Capturing and witnessing this moment, in the pearl of Africa

Within Uganda’s Lake Nalubaale.

(Lake Nalubaale means home of evil sprits and became Lake Victoria after her visit) (Mabamb means lungfish)



Muzungo = Traveller


God Bless you my people, my family you are the best team I have ever had in my life.”


“Be passionate, not just about money.” ~Alphar

“God Bless you, God Bless your hands, God Bless your pockets.” ~Alphar

Gorilla Advice


“If they charge, remain still, lower your eyes, act submissively, “

Ruboni Community Camp is a white spot:

A spot surrounded by nature, quietness and the authentic Bakanzo people.  A particular spot on the world wide map without a connection to the world wide web and without connection to the telephone network.  Our guests feel comfortable without the agitation and restlessness of every day life at home.  You can be here, just to be.


An awareness of time the gift of it the limited allocation

How I can best use it being vs busy

More aware of my choices and how I will spend it.

Smells of Uganda:  rain, clay, leaves on forest floor, earth,

Tastes of Uganda Posho, Muchaomo, Chapati, Rolex, Katoga, Chaloke,

Gorilla Permit $900

Chimpanzee permit $350

When Considering a Move


When one finds themself feeling root-bound

Or no longer thriving in their current position


Consider the bougainvillea

As their roots are quite fragile

And are extremely sensitive to disturbance

Prune about 30% of its stems

Thus avoiding the unnecessary stress

Of supporting a lot of foliage

With a smaller root ball


The mover must wear gloves

Being careful to support

This hot pink magnificent

Shrub laden with thorns

Not lifting it by the main stem


Transplant shock:

Can be due to insufficient roots supporting it

To try and save it

Move it into the shade

Prune, water, allow proper drainage

Never fertilize under stress

Watch for signs of reviving


You probably won’t get any blooms for quite awhile

It is not unheard of to take

2 to 5 years to fully recover.


After reflecting

Perhaps some adjustments

Light, nourishment

Removing excess foliage


And bloom right where you are.

A Psalm of Sibling Loss


Grief is my brother

The boy the same as me

so accurately described in American Sign Language

Only now I am an only child.


Grief lays me down in fields of sorrow

Leading me to solitary waters

drowning in my tears alone

Grief defines my days

Leading me into anger, survivor’s guilt, bargaining

denial and I fear the talons of death


The photos and memories of us

comfort me

as I try to help our parents

Attempting to make them proud with my


showering them with gifts

Hoping your empty chair beside me at our table

remains unnoticed

to no avail

Grief brings me a lover

who shares my bed, but not my fears

She announces our pregnancy

and my parents truly smile for the first time in years

Do I name our baby after my beloved Irish twin?

or would this create a legacy of loss

A sorrow I cannot bear to repeat in our family

surely happiness and acceptance shall evade me

all the days of my life

and I will walk hand in hand

with this emptiness within forever


The love of my child


gives me the hope to

love again

The way we loved

before loss

before this crushing emptiness


when this little hand slips into mine

I will once again

feel that oneness that left me, with your last exhale.


Perhaps his cry into this world

will reawaken tears of joy

that we once shared

our secret world our private jokes

our mirrored looks that only we knew


And I will learn to walk with this grief

and live these remaining moments with a compassion

only one who has lost their shadow can comprehend.



We are born loving them, trusting them

They are our first loves

our Alpha, our Omega

and all the letters in between 

In time we judge more, love less

Disappointed with trust we question 

the foundations we grew upon

In loving others

our affection for Oedipus and Electra

are replaced 

They die loving us, trusting us

imploring forgiveness 

From us  not for them

We are left with a legacy 

for our children to explore 

first teachers, first companions

each the other’s reflection.


(Inspired by Faithless by Joyce Carol Oates “For this is a fact I’ve learned that has surprised me a little: we come to love our parents more as we grow older together, in a kind of jolting lockstep.  Realizing at the midpoint of our lives, looking at them looking anxiously at us, My God, we’re in this together.”


(Published in Grief’s Labyrinth and Other Poems by Lisa Albright Ratnavira 2017).

Is it really time?


She looks at the snow covered San Jacinto Mountains

Asks me if that is really snow

she is seeing

I laugh tell her its

powdered sugar

She laughs too

expressing the warm hugs

she feels from these

majestic mountains.

She sips her coke

and tells me,

“My mind is like ice..

It’s melting”


I sigh,

tell her,
“Yes mom, it’s snow on the mountains.”


I sip my black coffee

our hands, our smiles,

our laughs

so mirror like


watching her memoires slip away

her confidence

like a ghost fading into a dream

what I would give

for things I once cursed

Like when she offered me

her lover Juan, younger than me

or smelled like

Canadian mist, smoke, and blue grass

when she tucked me in to bed.


like my beloved sweet peas

has left us searching for Spring

so I may sew an invisible shawl of sweet peas

to cloak her mind in beauty

and pray only laughter remains

                                                between us.”

Braiding Sweetgrass

The Sweetgrass

supple and flexible 

weaves effortlessly in my hands


Her hair filtered sunlight silver emerging

slips finely and softly through my fingers; as I braid

the songbirds call out

robins, bluebirds, and spotted towhees

announcing Dawn


Beads of dew adorn the sage brush

musically she breathes, difficulty swallowing 

whistles in each breath


My prayers fall gently upon these moments 

in and out; roles reversing

like the interwoven braids


Tying together 

time and laughter 

until one slips away

in the echoes of birdsong.


(Epigraph:  I was reading Braiding Sweetgrass by  Robin Wall Kimmerer and wrote this poem 3 months before my mom passed in my arms).


In Order to Reminisce...


Oftentimes, travel gives life

and with memories of years passed by

comes a longing so deep

the soul cannot capture it


These times, laden with images

of beautiful people encountered

countries discovered, flights taken

life birds and open spaces witnessed

the body remembers

all the awe and passions felt


and one by one,

with each photo, every coin and postcard

the traveler reignites

laughing and reliving


these moments

deeply embedded

within their dreams


     those images

     awakening their

     desire to remain

            in order to never forget.

Lisa Ratnavira

Photograph by Neil Ratnavira

Lisa Ratnavira resides in Fallbrook, CA with her husband, wildlife artist, Gamini Ratnavira. Their art and poetry connect in her books: Maiden, Mother & Crone (written with Rae Rose and Penny Perry), Traveling with Pen and Brush, and Grief’s Labyrinth and other Poems (Garden Oak Press), available online at and

Lisa is a regular contributor to the San Diego Poetry Annual and holds an MA from Concordia University in Irvine, Ca. She has traveled to more than16 countries, including Singapore, Sri Lanka, England, Africa, Bermuda, Bahamas, Bali, Trinidad, Panama, Costa Rica, Spain, Canary Islands, the Maldives, Japan, Canada, Mexico, and throughout the USA. Her sons Beau and Brooks reside in Japan and Fallbrook, respectively.

Her daughter, Natalie, is free from an earthly address. She often visits in the form of a dragonfly.

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