You asked me not to make my words beautiful,
yet you told me of gods who ate butterflies gilded
with honey. I could imagine it, the taste of something
so delicate consecrated by those we give libation.
I grasp at my words, but never as effortlessly as the
stories you told. Hardly true, but gave me a mind
of imaginings I would have possibly not known.
And your life, the stories of being too young to live
and too old not to. I envy your tongue. As it slips
with distance, my ears, our age, my life too far away
to listen, I try to make beautiful with my words and
sometimes forget to live. Always at the cusp of glory,
never reaching it because I believe more in your truth.
Nothing is as beautiful.
Instinct told us to look out the window as quickly
as the babyflies came out of nowhere. The sun knew
to shed its glare on every curtain with the opening
of the clouds. Mothers did not shout at our eagerness
to play outside. The rain had passed, the termites
were flying, calling us out. We ran. One told us
that the people of old used to eat these fried, or so her
grandfather told them. After the rain came a playfulness
no chide could tame. We found plastics to put the termites
in, caught them one by one and plucked their papery wings out.
And our song¬–such joy on the street. Come babyfly, fly babyfly.
Unknowingly interrupting the affair of the nuptial flight.
Where I learned to read, I learned to pray. In every other room
a church on Sunday. A drum, clapping hands, a preaching, interceding,
the harmonies of Zion, and Mfundisi’s keyboard interchanging as I walked
to the toilets. They were so dark, but I was not afraid of Pinky-Pinky
when it was church I went to school for. Something about not being in uniform
and the universal prayers made me brave. I wonder why I always arrived to Mfundisi’s
wife’s outrageous laugh of a weep. Like some bird calling out before the husband would spit
into the mic, “Let’s give God a hand of praise.” The warriors who chanted
“O, Jesus!” were delivered on the same floors we used to polish on Friday
before the after-school siren. It was a scary scene to watch, to giggle behind red chairs,
for us Sunday School. I was in a classroom 6 days a week. Always listening, attentive,
sometimes drooling, watching, learning something. I watched porn with my best
friend and two boys so casually surrounding her table in Geography. I kissed a boy,
his lips so soft, dared by a clique of horny pre-matrics. Where I learned faith,
I was so sinful and obedient, and I learned to count. The same woman who laughs
outrageously when she prays saw me one day with his hands in mine.
In class, she so casually announced, here men don’t marry men.
I never went back because I cannot pray myself away.
We were enthralled by the beauty
of our rapture to notice our moments
fleeting with time. I loved you in the rain,
I loved you in the summer. We stole a kiss
under the mulberry tree, my memory now
blood-stained like your shirt when the juice
dripped on it. How could you explain to your
mother the mess of our delight? Love with a boy
made you do these things. We ran away from nothing
to share us without staring judgment. Innocent,
we loved this way. Our moments rushing to an end
promised like the sometimes tartness in the sweet of our fruit.
I travel back though, and sit in our memory with my back against
the bark. Dreaming to dance freely with our fingers intertwined
and wonder, were we young?
Poetry © Tshifhiwa Itai Ratshiungo
Photo by David Clode on Unsplash (modified)