SAMIR R MTAMBA
Zimbabwean poet and prose writer of Malawian extraction (b. Harare, Zimbabwe, 1959). Published in many journals in the English-speaking world. Studied at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College. Briefly at Dalhousie in Nova Scotia for Graduate Studies. New Leftist by inclination. Taught in Zimbabwean high schools and the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) an affair he deeply repents. Grateful to be a recluse and an independent researcher.
AFRICAN SYMPHONY, SYMPHONY OF DEATH
You must be from my country
I see it by the tick of the soul around the eyelashes
and besides you dance when you are sad
You must be from my country
TCHICKAYA U TAM’SI “Presence”
Loneliness eats my heart
Like cancerous acid on the skin of day
And I itch for a soothing anodyne
To cool my riotous brain
Thinking of life, this life
Seeping down the barren sand
Like fluid from a splintered egg
Denuded into impotence by charlatans
For whom life is a mere game
With but one big advantage
For their congenital flair for deceit in the gamble
That swindles all deceived players
Into penury and death
Robbers and looters
In designer suits
Standing tall and debonair
Over a starved cracked earth.
Those glinting white teeth,
Those celebrated winning smiles
Exuding ostensible human warmth,
Our perpetual curse
That we produce so many fine brains
Only to destroy them in one fell swoop
Of paranoid fear and envy
Canonizing sycophants, fools and playboys
While pauperizing true functionaries
Abducting and gunning them down
To be interned in unmarked graves
After whoring their wives and daughters
Perfecting the art of begging
By proffering the thin skulls
Of orphaned urchins to the world
Every new moth that struts the lighted stage
Hoodwinking citizens into swinish stupor
Intoxicated by despair
Heads such awkward wrecks
Swimming in the wine of plundered wealth
While children whine with hunger and disease
That search for personal glory
Against compatriots in the hell-go-round of want and despair
With glinting steely-knife sharp smiles
To build mammoth tombs and sites
That straddle dry empty valleys of kings and heroes
Kings and heroes for themselves
And themselves alone and not their sad starving subjects.
This curse of the prosperity of cheats and liars
The growl of ferine despots
In these kingdoms of hunger
And carnivals of death
Small men adept at destroying small men
For the big sharks to shake their bloody hands
For jobs well done.
We have produced some of the world’s finest brains today
But where, where are they?
Where are they and their works?
Where, I say
If not in the morgues or unmarked graves?
Everywhere graves, everywhere prisons
Everywhere voluminous madhouses
Everywhere charnel houses and unmarked graves
And the ubiquitous big begging bowls
Made of skulls of the starving
While speechifying at the United Nations
Applauded by predatory sharks and sycophants!
Today loneliness eats up the zenith of my day
Like the cancer of poverty and hunger
On the silent mouths of the orphaned children of Africa
Laced by the haughty sceptre
Of those who brag at the United Nations
About the dignity
Of leading sovereign nations
Of broken subjects and skeletons
In school, church, the market and the charnel house
The symphony of death
Louder and angrier than Beethoven’s Ninth!
THE OLD MAN AND I
I think l am unburdening his creed –saturated mind
But he scoffs at my lack of belief.
I try to clear the menacing thick forest in his mind
For his unfettered will to fill
He summons back talismans, cathedrals, mosques, shrines
And the dominion of their custodians.
He is puzzled by my godless existence
I am exasperated by his foolish rejection of freedom.
THIS COUNTRY IS A FEVER
(POEM FOR J.D. GILES IN ‘FRISCO)
This country is a contagious fever
And although you only travelled its veins
Insulated by a thick alien skin
You caught its germ in your blood
And so quiver with the discordant discourse
Of all who are ravished by it.
I too was a mere passerby
Following the footprints of my fathers
Chasing illusions of sequins in the sand
Only to lose the clarity of vision
Bequeathed by the waters of my ancestral rivers and lakes
Forever through my sweat drops
Feeding the thirsty hot sands of exile and betrayal.
My own shadow is now a sphinx
Whose cryptic questions I cannot answer
To win passage into the horizon, retreat and reprieve
To where the spirits dance
The totemic dance of destiny
Hand in hand with immortality.
Though our congenital trespasses and karmas are different
We are, by complicity, united
Victims of wander mania
The crime of presence, having been here or there once or many times.
Thus even though I melt in this fever here
You cannot escape the rhythm of my death throes over there
For this country is a terrible fever
That afflicts all adventurous birds of passage
To all corners of the world.
KUNAPIPI, JOURNAL OF POSTCOLONIAL LITERATURE, VOLUME
XXX NUMBER 2 2008
I met this old man uptown a while ago, I remember.
He was going up and I down.
He was relaxed and I quick, my blood whipping up the sapling I am
Dreading the idea of being late, of being there
After everybody else-
The streets drained of all my friends.
And here I meet him again, the old man
Holding all the prizes that we covet in life.
How he manages these mazes of streets
Is more than I will ever know. But he is here
Before me again- I am going down and he up
Again and again-
My head drained of all thought except fear of what is to come.
It is so unsettling that somehow
He manages to be there before me all the time, this old man.
For no matter how quick blooded I am
Only a few minutes sees him beyond the mazes of muddled
Streets before I get there or anything of value.
TODAY IS ENOUGH BOTHER AS IT IS
Today is enough bother as it is.
Victims of dogged habit
We simply put seed in the dry ground and wait.
Precocious children have become such a burden.
We cannot offer answers to their questions
As we grapple with the heat of today.
Growing up is such a distant country
Beyond now, beyond reach, beyond today
Elusive as fluffy dreams
Further than America
Further than Mozambique
Than Christmas, Christmas bells and cakes
A mirage in the basket
The sash of silk and the jingling of coins
In a beggar’s dreams.
Only ghosts move up and down the streets
Laughing and whooshing with a real sense of purpose
And even really dying when it comes to that,
Stealing, crying, loving and fighting
Imitating life as it was really lived once
When people were still complacent enough to believe
In things like the future, a new year, messiahs
Or somewhere cosy and sunny
Once upon a time.