• DETRIBALISED

    His friends called him Mr Kwekwe
    That dry hot town in the Midlands.
    He was a very generous man.
    No one went thirsty when he was present
    Even though the bar did not belong to him.
    He would be offended indeed.
    If you refused the drink he offered you.
    He always had money in his pocket
    But none in his bank account.

    When friends went to visit their folks,
    He would be visiting the pubs,
    Drinking, laughing and living his life
    Though his widowed mother
    Never gave up hope
    That one day he would come home.

    He eventually did:
    In a coffin
    Bought by his drinking friends
    Who used to drink from his pockets.
    They had to place it under a solitary tree.
    His mother's doorway was not big enough
    To accommodate the rich coffin.
    His friends buried him in a hurry
    And drove back to town shaking their heads.
    There was no drink at the funeral!... more »

  • GIVING AWAY THE BRIDE

    Half-kneeling and half-seated
    The head of the family makes his address
    communicating with the ancestors
    Imploring them to bless the bride.

    "The daughter you gave us is going.
    We are taking her to her husband's.
    We accepted their herd of cattle
    And according to the teaching you gave us,
    We have no right to keep both
    Our daughter and their herd.

    "You, my father, who has gone before us
    And are watching over us from the clouds,
    We ask you to tell the girl's grandmother -
    Your wife and our mother.
    Also tell our people who are with you
    That we are taking their child to her new home.

    "We thought it right and proper
    That we should notify you before she goes.
    You know as much as we do
    That when she leaves behind
    Guidance away from home
    Can now only come from you,
    You who only can be with us
    And with her in her new home.

    "Let there be happiness and good life,
    Let there be tender pumpkins in their marriage.
    You do know if there should be no little ones,
    Her husband and his people may think
    That their cattle brought no children home.
    If there should be no little ones of her own,
    Give her the wisdom
    Not to try her luck with other men!"... more »

  • LOST

    He swore on his mother's grave
    That if I left my husband for him,
    He would never let me walk on my feet.
    He would carry me on his back
    Like mothers carry their babies.
    Does everyone believe everything they're told
    When they are in love — I did!

    We had not gone far in our elopement
    When he swore again on his mother's grave
    That he would not take me with him
    If I came along with my little boy.
    I could not go back to my husband.
    I tearfully abandoned my little love!

    I had a mother's heart inside me,
    Though it may have been a foolish lover's heart.
    I was sad as I followed him on my feet,
    Though he'd promised to carry me on his back.
    I could not find laughter in his jokes any more.
    I could not give him happiness because I had none,
    And he swore by his mother's grave as before
    That he would not have an unhappy woman for a wife.
    He crossed the river to his home village,
    And left me on the other side
    Without my boy - without my husband!... more »

  • REDUCE OR GO UPSTAIRS

    When shock absorbers in the spinal column are gone,
    And discs squeak on each other when you're walking,
    When one or both legs are often in pain
    And when there is no longer a spring in your step,
    You had better start slowing down in your eating
    Even though your appetite may be young and vigorous.
    Those legs cannot carry the weight any more,
    Nor can the aging heart shoulder the burden.

    When that pouch keeps on growing
    And makes you look like a pregnant woman,
    When you find yourself unable to bend
    And tie your laces with comfort
    And cannot jog to correct this situation,
    Then it's time to go slow on those fried eggs.
    The choice you must make is not easy
    But reduce your weight or join them upstairs!... more »

  • SQUATTER

    I worked in an asbestos mine
    I've lost count of the years.
    My lungs are full of what they tell me cannot be dislodged
    I emptied the bank of the earth
    To fill the commercial banks in foreign lands.
    I moved on to the farms,
    Hoping to clear my lungs of asbestos dust.
    They sent me to the tobacco barns
    To do work that makes me cough all night when I should rest.

    Now that I can no longer work in the mines
    Nor grade the lung-eating weed,
    I thought I could take my rest
    On the liberated ground of my country.
    But they tell me I'm a squatter —
    I must go back to where I came from originally.

    I thought I was born in this country.
    I thought my identity card tells it all
    That I am not a squatter in this country.
    Can someone tell me what headman will take me
    After I have been away countless years?

    My lungs are too old for the mines where I belong!
    My back is too old for the farms.
    I thought I'd paid enough taxes with my sweat.
    I thought my son who died in the liberation war,
    Died to liberate the land for me to live on!
    But they keep on telling me to move on
    Before they set fire to my few belongings.
    Is this what the children died for?
    Why doesn't someone tell me?... more »

  • THAT HE-GOAT

    He can't be as old as grandpa, can he?
    I am talking about grandpa's he-goat.
    But he is too old to follow the flock.
    Each time I'm on my way to school,
    He stares at me with fire-red eyes
    And scratches his back with his spiral horns
    He walks backwards and bleats
    As I get nearer and nearer to him.
    Maybe he wants to warn me
    That if I get too close, I could be gored.
    But I am not scared of an old goat
    Though I know from experience
    How he-goats hit each other to nose-bleeding.
    I have seen them raise their forelegs
    Slowly and fiercely approach each other on their hind legs
    And bang! they collide head-on!
    You would think they are mad beasts.
    If they should miss each other,
    And catch you in the cross fire, You would have to have your limbs in plaster
    And be absent from school with no one to play with.
    I wonder when the goat goes to graze.
    It is there when I go to school,
    it will be there when I return.
    And its eyes are still as though
    It nourishes itself on hard mbanje!... more »

  • THAT LODGER

    He came in the rain looking for shelter.
    I did not have the heart to deny him
    The use of an empty hut in the back.
    I had been warned, though,
    That very poor people are difficult to help.
    If you give him one of your suits for Christmas,
    He may not put it on, on the festive day.
    How can he do so if he has no shirt
    Even if you gave him the shirt and tie,
    He would still have no shoes and socks.

    When you have given the good example
    In being kind and generous to the poor,
    What happens if your young foolish daughter
    Emulates your example
    And the lodger mistakes charity for love?
    Sometimes taking on a lodger
    Is like planting a fast-growing tree
    Not far from your dream house.
    Even though there is no humus
    Near the foundations
    The tree may send its roots to find out
    And destroy the house in the process!... more »

  • THE HEART AND THE MIND

    I love him with all my heart
    But that is where the whole problem lies,
    My mind warns me.
    that the man I love
    Is a man with four young children.
    My heart says I will love him
    As well as his four or one hundred children!
    But my mind sighs and says:
    What will happen if his children do not accept you?

    I love him with all my heart,
    And I will love him to the end of the world.
    He has more wealth than we both need.
    Again my mind interferes with my love:
    Wealth is morning dew,
    Let the sun reach the noon of its life,
    The dew - the wealth of the morning
    Will be nowhere to be seen.
    Do I need to embarrass you with the question?

    But I cannot help falling in love with such a handsome man.
    So young, he will stride into the future with me.
    And my mind looks desperate:
    Why are you so fascinated with perishables?
    Do you know of any one with perpetual youth?
    Ever heard of someone who died of good health?
    All men grow old and weak with time.
    No one has ever leaped into the future.
    Is it going to start with your handsome man?... more »

  • THE PORCUPINE

    We are not swift-footed,
    The gift bestowed on our fellow animal beings.
    The rabbit and the antelope run as though
    They have wings on their feet.
    We of the porcupine tribe
    Have the monopoly of clumsiness.
    But have over the years developed
    A sure way of defending our lives,
    In case the humans descend upon us
    In the middle of the night
    While we are making a feast of their green maize.

    I have taught my little ones:
    Do not attempt to run.
    You can never out run their ferocious dogs,
    The animals that kill fellow animals
    To satisfy their flesh-eating masters,
    For a reward of a bare bone!

    Withdraw your heads,
    And let your quills stand out like a jungle of spikes.
    You will walk away victorious,
    When their dogs run away howling in agony
    With one or two quills embedded in their flesh.
    They have no fingers to extract the quill
    And their masters are no surgeons!... more »

  • TO MY BATH TUB

    An hour in my bath tub
    is what the doctor prescribed.
    Every evening I slide into my tub,
    Into water of measured temperature.

    Relaxed, I lie on my back
    All submerged except for my head.
    My body and the water become one in warmth.
    Like a hypnotist I conjure my mind and body
    To relax and sleep.

    My mind reaches as far back as it can
    to select the things I like to remember;
    Then I go forward to visualise the future;
    And back to review the day's work.
    But on some days I put on reading glasses
    And sleep in a play act just for the joy of it.

    If it were for cleaning the body,
    Would it be necessary every day?
    Even if I were a diesel mechanic,
    Would I need an hour in the tub?
    It is a therapeutic treat
    For the body and for the mind.
    Would you like to give it a try?
    Don't get addicted to it as I am!... more »