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Bones of Bulawayo Rattle: By Nigel Mabiza

Metaphoric orations from concrete metropolis buildings have left me baffled. Their poetic language is in loud whispers, yet the citizens never stop to eavesdrop on the vivacious mysteries. If only time froze them for a day, so that they could be statues with a heart beat, then maybe in the silence of their stony caricature they would hear the echo of the trumpet. The reverberations make the tallest buildings – N.R.Z. headquarters and Ascot hotel – quiver like reeds in the underpants of their foundations. From were I kneel, the passersby think it’s a callow charade of lunacy. Truthfully speaking, what I hear is a lucid divinatory voice. Listen closely, it’s like the city is pregnant with a bone child, yet to grow sinews and tendons. The child is speaking in sentences without vowels. I need clearance from the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to perform a Cesarean operation. This could be the prophetic child of this city’s revivication but they think I’m from the epicenter of Chipinge with a horn of iron; the horn of barrenness. I am as innocent as a miracle child born in the depth of flood waters, but, their nods are nothing but derisions. Twice I have received threats to be quarantined in the hospital of the insane – Ngutsheni until the spirit mediums loose their grip on the cloak of my spirit man only if they knew the treasure in my earthen vessel. Today I will walk the streets uttering ironic tales to remove the sense veil which shuts heavenly poesy of kirotic significance from mankind.

Morning has coughed a dark mist on the town square. It has become truant and roguish in its mannerisms. Decades ago, it sighed with freshness, its visage displaying dimples of joy. Those were the days; birds sang euphoniously, the golden sun would peep to only blush with an auburn face.  Now it smokes industrial gases without a filter in its greenhouse tent of pilgrimage. The dew is no longer as clear as a tear, but mucus oozing from a perennial cold it caught from the Indian Ocean. Silky wispy clouds float like motion picture ghosts. Beneath their jaded shadows, kings march on foot. All is vanity. They look dejected and defeated in the City of Kings. My heart has become as heavy as mercury due to poignancy. Their eyes are turbid, reflecting dark rays of trauma and phobia. Lobengula Street is where I stand erect opposite TM supermarket watching the detail like a falcon. The majority is adorned colourfully in Chinese wear like flowers which bloomed overnight. Some are wearing creased and crinkly clothes. Load shedding has made many apprentice joke smiths. The women are changing their walking scandals into formal stilettos. Men are tucking in their shirts soaked damp by body sweat. Their strides have reduced in frequency to the ‘all is well’ walk. It is not well, because the puppet masters’ invisible strings are still tight on the kings’ frame.

Mulishly, they pull the cart of their burdens, working like queenless ants. Robotic, remote controlled with hopes of procrastinated government promises of the election campaign. Could it be that the government is the proverbial axe and humanity is the tree bark? It could have been pruning anarchists or the deliberate removal of the shade of our relief.

‘What do you see Mthwakazi?’ asks Chikho a street vendor, so loudly that hitch-hikers are petrified. Time has stopped. This is the Beatitude mountain of Bulawayo where Ezekiel bones shall rattle. The prophetic voice hisses like a serpent to the wind’s four corners.

‘I see a diligent mother selling cabbages; the youth carrying apples; mobile jobless compact disc companies on pavements.’ Mthwakazi finds the city’s pulse normal.

‘What do you see Chaminuka?’ Chikho repeats his question.

‘industrialists; patriots and loyalists, men in ties proud of being independent, free as birds of the sky.’ His picture was painted after independence. It is now a fading image to some, being erased by the bleach of modernization, becoming black and white with its colours all but an amnesia to youths’ mindsets which are scar free and unwounded.

‘Young man what do you see?’ Chikho points to me. The older folk watch with scrutiny. Their stare is browbeating and coercive, but they are all statues motionless in their strides. The robots at the intersection near OK Supermarket’s pavement have just blinked showing a red stop light. It seems like a hallucination or maybe it’s an open vision. Crimson streams are flowing from the robot’s eye. The pale citizens are being covered by blood.

‘Is it that of independence or that of Christ?’  I ask myself in my cogitations. It should be that of Christ which speaks louder and better than that of our forefathers. It is bringing abundance to Bulawayo. The bones are rattling for they are the foundations to the flowing streams of crimson-blood, which is life. The sound I heard was the re-adjusting of the crippled bones of the child beneath the city. My guess could be it was the internal rebirth of a city. Suddenly, the robot passes through amber, the colour of a holocaust; an inferno which purifies the city’s golden bones of structure. This city shall be worth a fortune. The fire lasted only for a moment. Green then flashed, sound began, and so did movement – Bulawayo revived.

‘I see vendors becoming fruitful farmers; youths becoming entrepreneurs; death of mortal gods and annihilation of their altars; fecundity in barren princesses; extermination of those who sell the opium of religion – the city Pharisees who stand at the gate of prosperity.’ My words were simply an idiomatic expression of tangible hope. I tried to explain to them what I had seen but the wind began to blow into companies, banks, the municipals and the high and low density suburbs. Change had already begun. The earth of the city opened and closed at its birth, showing the vitality of its epitome of womanhood. A city was birthed and screamed to show life, in its nudity and sophisticated naivety. It became a conspicuous panache with a fresh aura of a morning sigh showing permanent milk teeth, ready to suckle the breast of abundance. The city was then christened to be koPhiliswayo, for it became a land of milk and the ubiquitous honey of wealth.

Nigel Mabiza
Nigel Mabiza
Nigel Mabiza contributes from Zimbabwe


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