“I Still Breathe the Wind” . . . by Mbizo Chirasha, Zimbabwean poet on the run

Male Lion in Hwange National Park courtesy of Tatenda Mapigoti, Upsplash

“. . . exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement.”  Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays

Unlike you and me, Mbizo, is without safe harbor. He poems from the trenches. He writes on the run. I think it is a good thing for us as artists and consumers of art and as simple human beings to understand something of this experience. Please also keep in mind as you read Mbizo’s essay today and the one that will post tomorrow, that I am still trying to find a host for Mbizo in Germany or someplace in Northern Europe, though England or the U.S. would work as well.  If you can help, please email me at bardogroup@gmail.com.  Thank you! / J.D.

Immersed in the cauldron of swirling floods, I flap my weighted wings with a singular drive carrying my dreams in a perforated duffle bag. My feet seek the sun at midnight in the land processing its abortion of tomorrow under the snipers telescope. No truth escapes unpunished.

I am a child of the South thrown further South where oceans crash with the fury of disagreed temperament. I am the child of the red soil darkened by falsehoods of high priests reading marching orders of disorders from a dishonored group purporting to speak for the gods of democracy.

North is more than a direction as my eternal campus throbs against the steel fetters of burnt hope as the night lights a path to the horizon dragging the flag of my totem along stranger’s homesteads. Baptized again and again by black night by men with no names. I now acquire a new name and a newer status. They baptized me grasshopper and I had to agree. Being a long jumper, being a high jumper and now attempting the triple jump. Grasshopper sounded a fair baptism name for a newborn boy/man lost the long road to the finish line under chase of fathers without hearts.

The process demanded I hit the road twice as hard into the no man’s square where mutation is official identity and “refugeeism” an international tag that comes in handy in the categorization of run-away undesirables as State gossip has branded me.

Back in the backyard where I first saw the sky through my father’s thatched roof, my village groans under my mother’s skirt birthing new hope in prayer for a child firm in his ways as it carries my umbilical on green banana leaves and the scented aroma of village songs now fading into the dusty thirst of warmth from a familiar smile. Eyes accuse my paranoid senses and it jump in nightmarish fever whenever a siren rings its ominous sound. Madness is a constant threat as shadows overwhelm daylight cornering it with harsh whispers of punishments of flame throwers onto my swollen feet and numb hands.

The next maternity ward aligned for my next rebirth and baptism is a grey room manned by grey suited men with faces long death of emotions. And the cesarean section they intend to perform is as crude as an amateur abortionist in a hurry.

What is left of my old decency and pride is crudely paraded on the cold operating table as men size my life’s worth with biased scales, perhaps from Shylock’s days. Help was alluded to without insurance or guarantee. Safety was mentioned in an undertone so I missed the term. But I came out dripping a cold near death sweat with a number like all patients must. I had arrived at the altar of earthly saving shore, and i had acquired a new name to add to all the odd ones of the past.

My name in full then is Birthright Exchange. Exchange took my surname and clan name. A born again, baptized vagabond just got a new name and home. Except, there is a price. The price of uprootedness is the cold feeling of life standing out in the frozen snow replaying life before truth became a dangerous topic to the ears of malfunctioning States back where democracies are still in nursery schools.

The mark of the hunted is in the ring of my new name. A name carrying the character of its bearer drones on in silent torment as time sweetly echoes old tales of the cost of a tongue to the ears of goons that live and act as gods in their appointed times and territories. Knowing me my dozen
names as borders define me, restlessness sends me to the solitude of own company to militate against failing to respond to the call of myself on demand.

I have become a spy on me as others are. I spy on my moods and my mental status. I spy on my location; I spy on faces especially if too familiar. I spy on everything and everybody, and boy! Are there enemies!

I see the enemies and hear them rushing to uncover the real in the unreal. I feel them creeping to pounce on me to reveal the cluster of baptism names so far accrued. I sense them stalking me in my dreams waiting to trace my dialect and send me back to the hell recently escaped from.

Am so very tired. I have a craving for normal. I just want to take a walk and feel the sun on my face. I miss bursting into spontaneous song just because. I wish to call a friend and laugh at life. But I can’t. For I am a sinner in the eyes of my landlord. And sinners such as I have been declared, are punished by being deleted from living and their memories faded by being refused a burial. So here I am. A born again human with an identity crisis like an old spy who believed his lies. Am cursing life as I eat with a mumble under my foul breath. I think of my lover and spit at the sky convinced she smiles at my tormentors as a measure of gaining favor against harassment.

I am born again and bear a new name, but am far from whole, with all the holes punched on my psyche by this journey to the unknown. This process of my resurrection is digging me in deeper into a different detention camp. The only positive is I get to chronicle my spiral to where this ends, unlike my malevolent accusers who suffers, that I still breathe.

Yes. I still breathe the wind piloting me to the next bus stop of this life where I found a mango seed I flung out the window in a fate of distasteful and displaced anger sprout. I stopped in my tracks. I stared in utter disbelief at life fighting to stay afloat at the oddest of places. I went closer to check out this miracle of rejection turning to acceptance and daring to take chances.

The seed had lost the outer covering in the hostile manner of its rejection. What will eventually be the root shot out tenderly in form of a fading yellowish green tendril reaching down the edge of the stone where the mother seed hung on with nothing but the will to die so tomorrow the next generation of mangoes would have a chance to feed humanity?

I was ashamed of my anger that robbed this kindly nurturer of humanity and wildlife a proper positioning for the purpose for which it now struggled. I had walked a rough road for many a mile. There are nights when I wasn’t sure I would see light of day. I had run and sprinted from ghosts out to harm.

© 2020, Mbizo Chirasha

Mbizo Chirasha

MBIZO CHIRASHA is a recipient of PEN Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant (2017), Literary Arts Projects Curator, Writer in Residence, Blogs Publisher, Arts for Human Rights/Peace Activism Catalyst, Social Media Publicist and Internationally Anthologized Writer, 2017 African Partner of the International Human Rights Arts Festival Exiled in Africa Program in New York. 2017 Grantee of the EU- Horn of Africa Defend Human Rights Defenders Protection Fund. Resident Curator of 100 Thousand Poets for Peace-Zimbabwe, Originator of Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Movement. He has published a collection of poetry, Good Morning President, and co-created another one Whispering Woes of Gangesand Zembezi with Indian poet Sweta Vikram.

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