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Waiting Tables: Poems by Wesley Macheso

Image: © Loco Steve via Flickr


We sail across the ocean
to sell smiles and shine tiles.
Bold girls with bottomless eyes
make violent love to shiny poles
under dim lights and blue windows
before woozy audiences flipping
dollar bills, whispering erotica.
Our innocence died at sea
when we dared to take the dreaded
pilgrimage to the Promised Land.
Pride and sound manners either blew
in the tempest or got lost in the frost
leaving only skin and bones.
Our forefathers were victims of the trade,
forced on board to toil abroad.
But we resigned to partake of the trade.
Hard work is a long suffering spirit
that refuses to be buried in the furrows of time.
So we sweep the electric avenues by day
and wait tables at night;
the extended family has to eat.



We shed skins
like poisonous snakes of the Congo.
Initiated in the ways of the ancestors,
the umbilical cord was chopped
under the sharp spade of the herbalist.
Childhood was dirty hands and bruised knees,
proverbs and the fear of elders,
until we left that skin cracked
at the door of the classroom.

We shed skins to allow for growth.
Infused with trigonometry and new tongues,
our mothers could not hear us.
Exhausted from the tedious process,
skins became pale, eyes turned blue.
We drank from the inkwells
the new knowledge of the new world.
We left this skin dry
on leaving the classroom.

We saunter in this piebald skin
attempting miscegenation by marrying
two unlike minds alien to each other.
We are strangers to those who gave birth to us.
Those who refined our ways
do not recognise the aliens they made.
We have shed too many skins
with the succession of seasons.



we receive your emails every fortnight
and they sting our hearts like angry bees
reminding us of your loooong absence.
We pity you in those pictures you send
covered in huge blankets
on misty afternoons devoid of sunshine.
Those pictures where you shiver
in front of lifeless trees,
the ground covered in white flakes,
some of the snow settling on your head
to the amazement of grandmother;
has our son grown that old?

You always lament over our pitiful lot.
I can feel the passion in your ink
when you recount the stories you hear
on a special bulletin dedicated to the motherland.
The tales that paint horrific rivers of blood
running across the Dark Continent
where brothers slit each other’s throats
for horrendous pleasure.
The complete heart of darkness
where life is poor, short, nasty, and brutish.

We can taste the suppressed pint of salt
accompanying the scanned bills of exchange
you send for us to claim 200 pounds
at any local branch of Western Union.
News of rampant corruption in the motherland
must be disturbing your enlightened mind
and you wonder in your sleepless nights;
haven’t they contracted the disease?

But your civilised eyes can never see
nor your knowledgeable mind comprehend
the happiness of the people up here.
Did you hear of our bumper harvest this year?
The rain came and we have enough
to feed three generations of stout infants.
My son, the nephew you have never met
has come of age.
We slaughtered two goats and five chickens
for his initiation ceremony.
We now have a man in the homestead.

We miss your jovial face amongst us.
We long to see the beautiful sun
shine on your dark brow one of these days.
Above all the horrors that meet your ear,
life is beautiful up here.
Our trees are alive and the sun shines with vigour.
You listen to the BBC and CNN we know
but need we remind you whose voice that is?



The salinity in this water
carries the bitter taste of loss.
The thoughts of my brothers
were washed in this aquatic exuberance.
It consumed their dreams of Europe.
It swallowed their good intentions;
the end justifies the means they say.
The sea guzzled my brothers
when they cut to the flesh for Spain.
The debris of the wreck floats
on the shores of my memory.
Shall I wash my thoughts in this water?
I will live to remember the sea.



We survived the touch of violence.
I saw your hollow eyes see my eyes
when you peeped through the thicket
watching them wreck my wet lingerie,
savagely breaking into my limp body.
I mourned and groaned under the weight,
pitied your tied limbs and your mouth shut.
They ravished the both of us.

Together we have trekked to a new day.
Now I want to feel your tenderness;
spread me out against tweaking rocks
and make love to me slowly.
Undo my brassiere, slide my lingerie down,
dip your fingers into my soft tentacles
and make me moan in forgetfulness.
I will feel your earlobe between my incisors
and whisper warm breath into your soul.
Teach me how to be loved
and I will show you how to love.
Together we will forge a future.



I was seduced by the harlot.
My gaze melted in sparkling irises of ocean eyes.
Grey daylights, pigeons, and flakes on grass
intoxicated my sable mind and I died
in sterile sex appeals and in arid smiles.
I love you.
Do the words still carry the weight?
Will you believe the wetness in my eyes
upon casting my pupils on your verdure terrain?
Your honey skin sets my spirit on fire
and my hands tremble on feeling the gossamer.
My tongue will lick your umbilicus
and my heart will remember how to love.
My being is lost in you
my Elysian dark continent.

Poems © Wesley Macheso
Image: © Loco Steve via Flickr

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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