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A Masquerade of Spirits: Poems by Wesley Macheso


A Masquerade of Spirits

Behind the mask he is a spirit
channelling messages from the gods
to the perplexed audience dazzled by his darts.
Manifesting the rage of the spirits on whipping
the uninitiated boy witnessing the dances of men.
Expressing their bliss and tolerance
by moving his body and stomping his feet
to the clapping and ululating of the women,
keeping in with the rhythm of the drums,
speaking the mind of the ancestors
in un-meditative spasms and seizures.

Behind the mask he is more than a king.
For who but the spirit can rebuke the brazen chief
whose lustful waist has known
grinding hunkers of naked women
married and unmarried roaming the silent village.
The headless chief must be shamed behind the mask.
The ancestors must speak for the silenced husbands
and voiceless maidens with tarnished faces.

Behind the terrifying mask he is a god
supervising the initiation of boys into adulthood.
Guiding the spirits of those who have left
through the dark and unknown passage
to the land of the immortal ancestors.
No man can bring a spirit before a chief.
The wreckage in his path is collateral damage,
the obscenity from his mouth is unintentional,
his tongue does not speak the language of men,
it’s fibre wire communicating the will of the gods.
Behind the mask he is not of this world.


A Feast for My Mother

She lingers on the small of my mind;
backwater in the current of my memory.
I behold the reflection of her face
in the wells of silence that echo
the fear of loss and the loss of love.
They have gathered, heads in their hands
for a feast to kill the amnesia.
They have prepared a feast for my mother.
But I need words. Voices. Sounds.
I would slit throats to hear her laugh.
If only she could shout obscenities.

My God.
I want to hear the soles of her feet
patting the ground from a distance
like a tremor on the other side of life.
I need words. Voices. Sounds.



I do not want to come home
to an Elysium of honey and milk.
I have no taste for mask dancers,
no desire for virgins with enticing loins.
I am not of noble birth
and the wild has no place in my bosom.
I want to come home to reality:
To the rising sun supplanting the dew
and to the orange glow at dusk.
Home to television, fashion, and glamour,
to the nightlife and business by daylight,
to corruption, hunger, war, and HIV.
I am coming home to Africa.


Behind Those Eyes

Behind her Christian eyes
lies a great puzzle.
Those seductive eyes that peruse mother earth
rummaging every nook and dark corner,
illuminating the hideous darkness,
bleaching brown skins and sable minds
in the name of enlightenment.
Preaching peace, waging war.

Those eyes that oversaw my brothers
skin stark-black bent-double
under your devilish lash.
Gashing the hinds of those weary souls
in the intense heat of your cotton plantations.
My dark brothers squawked in sweats of blood.

Those sly eyes that preach liberty.
The panoramic sights that know no limits.
Didn’t they excavate a hideous monster
from nefarious catacombs in the Orient?
And what weapons of mass destruction
they found there!
My God. Sweet Uncle Sam,
behind those eyes you lie.


Dancers to Endless Tunes

We were ripe maidens with stout breasts.
Our sparkling eyes tortured youthful warriors
arousing desire in their vibrant groins.
Caught up in the frenzy of independence,
we swayed our enticing loins in the heat.
Tempting bodies pelting to the rhythm
fell into powerful snares of ministerial lusts
and we bore babies with no fathers.
The harvest of seasons of hope.

We danced to the tune of change,
drooping breasts swaying to the rhythm.
Our cracked bare feet stomped the ground
raising dusts that settled on sweaty faces.
We danced to feed malnourished offsprings,
our fatherless children who had fathers,
slowly dying from chomping poisonous tubers.
We danced to the frenzy of hunger.

We are still dancing to their bewitching rhythm
with our daughters with sons to feed.
Our sons beating the drums of despair,
celebrating the new powers on the podium.
Our toothless gums hum praise and worship
hopelessly dancing to their endless tune.


All Poems: Wesley Macheso

Wesley Macheso
Wesley Macheso
Wesley Macheso, PhD, is a Malawian writer. He teaches literature at the University of Malawi to survive and he writes to live. His short story “This Land is Mine” is published in Water: new short story fiction from Africa (2016) by Short Story Day Africa. He won the 2015 Peer Gynt Literary Award in Malawi for his children’s book Akuzike and the Gods (2017). Some of his poems are anthologised in Wreaths for a Wayfarer (2020). His work can be read online on African Writer, Brittle Paper, Storymoja, The Kalahari Review, and Agbowo magazines. He edits for and Twitter handle: @Wesleymax89

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