The Breadwinner

(For Ngcimezi)

By Zondiwe Mbano

On Juma, Friday, the day of worship
The muezzin calls from the minaret.

After worship, the faithful extend alms
To the poor: a pile of coins to pick from.

Shop after shop, barefoot, panting in the heat
Of October, for the baby on her back is heavy.

The baby strapped, except for withered legs,
Has heavy pectorals; and fully bearded, he

Booms to her ears: how she must walk,
Where she must go, what she must buy…

Now the sun points home, she adjusts him
And straps the day’s buy within his reach

For his restless hands solace themselves
Anywhere, anytime, within their locus.

Now trudging home, stops to greet someone
(For even a donkey acknowledges a friend):

A heavy slap from the right hand, she sees
Stars, totters; then the command: Forward!

She moves: slaps are a tonic for the family
And a man’s love is wrapped in jealousy.

But it was only Nagama, she later explains;
And the voice: What about that man with her?

Romantic exchanges to entertain themselves
For the long walk to their children, waiting.

The author, Bruce Zondiwe Mbano is a lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Skills at Chancellor College. He has authored short-stories, plays and poems, some of which have been published in The Fate of Vultures(BBC prize-winning poetry), Heinneman and The Haunting Winds(published by Dzuka). His poem The Viphya won second prize in the 2000 Peer Gynt Literally Award. Mbano’s previous poems on Afreecan Read include Eyes of Age and Road to Emmaus.