Children of Clay (for Gloria)

 

By Zondiwe Mbano

A girl took wet brown clay, spat
into it, and pressed and beat it with
Her palms; then spitting into it again
And carefully rolling it between her
Open palms, she moulded the torso
To which she joined the arms, legs
And head. Then with exactness, using
A stalk of grass, she formed the mouth
Nostrils, and eyes. Finally with saliva
On the stalk, she polished the boy firm
And glossy, and stood him in the sun
And wind. But when she came back
She found him fallen, dry and broken.

A woman, hopeless, at a mortuary
In Blantyre, poured out bitterness:
God, why did you snatch my son
My only son, Dongo. Cruel God,
Why strike an innocent woman?

Another woman, broken-hearted
At Makhanga in the Lower Shire
Lamented: who delivered my son
To the enemy? Who snatched my
Only covering, leaving me naked?

God on high, riding the thunderbolt
When will you take pity on children
Of clay? Look how they easily crack
And break up, in the rain, in the wind,
In the sun, leaving the mothers broken.

Notes
Dongo or Chidongo, a name that means earth, soil, or clay.

 

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 has published beautiful poems on Afreecan Readincluding, Eyes of AgeRoad to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.

 

Midnight Invasion

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 AgeRoad to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.

Wayfarer’s Song (For my father, died 1988)

By Zondiwe Mbano

They told me the day is long,
But the walk will be short

My father, I walked the day,
Sunset overtook me walking

They told me to light a match,
It will chase away darkness

My father, I have seen motes
Of darkness smothering light

They told me to plunge deep,
The water would not be cold

My father, I plunged: didn’t I
Faint? The water was biting

Now my teeth chatter, my ears
Buzz, and my heart is numb

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 has published beautiful poems on Afreecan Readincluding, Eyes of AgeRoad to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.