By Zondiwe Mbano
The forerunners, black ants, worms, crickets
Abandoned the comfort of underground nests
Causing so much pandemonium in the kitchen
As they fought with cockroaches and spiders.
Who knew this was the harbinger of a midnight
Battle with a formidable battalion of red ants?
Slowly, unlike hasty soldiers from nations
Of warmongers bombing schools or hospitals,
The innumerable army marched in silence,
With divisions already assigned the areas.
The spies, examining the blankets, awoke us
To see windowpanes and grilles all covered.
While the foragers were already gathering
Necessary provisions from the kitchen,
The battalion was soon inside, advancing
In every direction, and climbing the walls.
On the veranda, our trusted guards silently
Scampered away at the initial onslaught;
Their cousin, the jackal, pokes his long tail
Into ant holes to draw and chew mouthfuls.
War was on, sending geckos scuttling across
The ceiling, but soon the soldiers covered it;
A mouse, panic-stricken, thought it could hide
In a hot lampshade, but soon fell to the army.
We remembered village weapons: hot ashes
And coals, dust and sand to scatter the lines
But there was none, nor could we draw lines
On the cement floors to lead the army away;
So, with hot water, a few puffs of spray, powder
Even salt and flour, we fought the war to sunrise
When more weapons of mass destruction came
To clear a battalion that does not count the dead.
Even after this, suicide fighters would suddenly
Startle you by striking deep in delicate places
And during the following nights, we had to learn
To respond quickly to warnings of the forerunners.
Bruce Zondiwe Mbano is a lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Skills at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. 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 has published beautiful poems on Afreecan Readincluding, Eyes of Age, Road to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.