while walking in my darkness, I woke, eyewoke

Grown-Ups Lie: An Original Short Story

Anita loved the holidays. First, there was no school. Second, she could go to the shops with Mum and look at all the decorations, and sometimes Mum would get her one of the sweets that came in the cases shaped like dolls or cellphones.

She especially loved the giant Christmas tree that stood in the center of the mall, perfectly aligned with the clear, high domed roof. The red and silver tinsel garlands wove themselves around the tree in a never ending spiral and the baubles were way bigger than the ones at home. At the bottom around the tree, giant boxes wrapped in shiny paper were stacked against each others, and there would sometimes be a sled and electric reindeer in front of them. She knew the boxes were empty, her brother had told her, but she liked to imagine that they were filled with all the best toys and gifts, and maybe Santa would bring one to her house on his sleigh on a snowy night like in the films.

But again, she knew Santa wasn’t real, and she knew it did not snow in Zambia.

They were in the supermarket, and a popular Christmas song was playing from the speakers overhead. Mum gently hummed as she pushed the trolley along the aisles, picking an item only to inspect it, put it down and pick another. The trolley was smaller this year; when they got to the entrance, Anita had gone for the usual giant one but Mum had said;
“No, not that one,” and she got the smaller one, the one where you fit two baskets instead.

There were toys and chocolates on every aisle corner, decorated with tinsel and Christmas lights. Anita let her eyes linger over them for a few seconds before rushing to follow her mother. The supermarket was crowded today, it was a few days to Christmas and so everyone was doing their last minute shopping.

“What happens when people are not organised,” Daddy would say when he saw the long lines at the counter. He was in Zimbabwe for work, and he said he would be home last week, but he had not come yet.

“Bring me the tomato sauce,” Mum said, and Anita reached for the brand they’d always used but was met with a stern, “No, get the supermarket one.”

And so she put it back on the shelf and reached for the generic branded one. Mum was a few steps away from her now, inspecting the spices and Anita squeezed herself through the trolley filled aisle to reach her when someone called out.

“Grace!” She looked up, it was Mum’s friend from church, Aunty Kangwa.

“Hello Kangwa! Mulishani? How are you?” Mum said in her warm voice she usually reserved for guests.

Aunty Kangwa had just pulled into their aisle with the giant trolley, in it bags of rice, pasta, frozen meats and a whole bunch of other foodstuffs.

“I’m just doing some small shopping last minute, you know these holidays,” she said, she had a good-natured, husky voice. She shifted her full figure from behind her trolley to greet Mum and pat Anita on the head, her hand smelled of perfume, “iyee, this one is growing!” she said, looking down at Anita through her black rimmed glasses. There was a small smudge of hot pink on her teeth where the lipstick had rubbed off.

“Yes!” Mum agreed. She turned to Anita and said, “Mami I told you to get the All Gold tomato sauce, not this generic one!”

Anita stared at her blankly, confused.

“You know these kids, absent-minded,” Mum added, and Aunty Kangwa laughed in agreement.

Anita went back and put the generic-brand tomato sauce, picking up the expensive one that Mum had earlier told her to put back on the shelf.

“Anyway,” Aunty Kangwa was saying when she got back, “tell me, what are the Christmas plans?”

“Oh you know,” Mum replied, “the usual, church na ka small family lunch after. The whole family will be coming.”

“Oh, lovely,” Aunty Kangwa answered, “and when is Bashi Kingsley arriving?” Kingsley was her brother’s name, so Anita knew they were talking about Daddy.

“The flights have been fully booked these days, you just know how hectic the holiday season gets,” Mum responded, putting a seasoning bottle in her basket, she did not even inspect it like she’d been doing with everything else they’d bought today, “but we finally found him one for Christmas Eve.”

Anita’s heart rose. Daddy was coming home after all! They would just have to wait till Christmas Eve, and it was only five days away.

“Oh! That’s wonderful!” Aunty Kangwa sang, she clapped her hands together, and the bangles on her wrists clinked together, “God is great!”

“Indeed,” Mum replied, and with a smile, she added, “Anyway dear, we’ll catch up soon! Let me rush, these lines are too long already.”

“I know, I know,” the other woman agreed, “we’ll chat later.”

And so they pushed their way through the crowded aisle and Anita followed her mother to the shortest looking aisle.

Another popular song started playing through the speakers, but Mum was not humming along this time. They snailed up the line, the songs changing, and Anita barely keeping her excitement at bay. Daddy would be here, and they would go present shopping, and he would make that special hot chocolate with the ice cream inside, and she would show him the drawing she had made at school.

“Mum,” she said after some time.


“What time will Daddy be arriving on Christmas Eve?”

“He’s not coming,” Mum replied as they reached the counter.

Anita felt like a brick had fallen inside her stomach, “Huh?” she breathed.

“He won’t be coming baby,” Mum explained, “We can’t afford the ticket.”

But she had just told Aunty Kangwa that he would be arriving on Christmas Eve! Anita did not say that out loud though.

She nodded quietly as she watched the green numbers on the screen add up whenever the cashier punched in the items. Sometimes grown-ups lied, and sometimes they left bottles of tomato sauce at the counter.




Mamma Mike

Her arms, like wings were open always
Full of hugs, her lips kisses
Her slitted eyes squinted more if that were possible
As she moved to best give us our wishes

Freckles, like black stars ran across her brown skin
An oddity for a woman born Black
The spots I traced with grimy little fingers
Wondering if they could be peeled back

From her mouth came laughs, like roaring thunder
As the rest of her body shook in adipose waves
The same mouth would twist in agony
As she would oft witness old friends sent early to their graves

She put food in our mouths
We didn’t own a table
She sewed the clothes on our backs
To buy from stores, she wasn’t able

He made thousands, and she pennies
From vegetable stands, she made her money
He an executive suit, you never could have known
That they two, lived in wedded matrimony

When she heard there was another her
And that he’d bought her a brand new house
She tossed her hair, laughed and said
She might be the other, but I’ll always be the spouse

And so from her stand, she fed and raised us
When from his pockets, he spent on her
And when they asked why she wasn’t upset, angry, desolate
She would answer with a humoured har-har

And then he fell ill
Man once flesh reduced to brittle bone
And so she took him in and nursed him
Brought him back to health all on her own

Twasn’t long till he slipped back
Went to his old ways
But she only sighed and shook her head
She seemed much quieter these days

As the time it passed
Quiet turned to slow, and slow turned to bed ridden
We asked what was wrong
But whatever it was, she kept well hidden

She smiled less, she tried to though
Then the cold came along, and with it she went quick
Lost and confused, we circled ourselves
One day she was here, and the next she was too sick

I smile when I think of her
Her freckles, arms and laugh
She was many things
And woman, was she tough

She taught me many things
And one thing will always be
I loved Mamma Mike
And Mamma Mike loved me


A Seat at The Table, A Place on The Floor

I die a little every day
As I watch in fever-dream reality
The stream of my lifeblood trickle and fade away

Boxed in these four walls
The dusty panes, the peeling paint
The steps of those long-lifeless, echoing down the halls

Through the window to my right
A man screams into his phone
In clear frustration he talks about money, and what he calls civil plight

In the distance, sirens and ice cream bells wail
Background music to his political rant
He hangs up and I wonder if he got what he wanted, or if it was a fail

He retreats into his building, and the lump in my throat reforms
His performance so brief it made me forget, is over
And the emptiness inside quickly returns

The cream white paint, in the corner an ink stain
The desks, the files, they serve to remind me
I was never special, I am common, plain

It never really mattered what I was good at, what I knew
The world is such a big place
But has room for only few

The rest of us grovel and grab in desperate spree
We hack away at the best of ourselves
We even offer them for free

Anything for something a little stable
We kill for a place on the floor
For we’ll never get a seat at the table

I cut away, I divided all I had of me
Out-grovelled, out-ran, the thousands beside me
Just so They could have my bits, even if for free

All for a place on the pavement, on the floor
My reflection dulled and faded
I don’t know who I am anymore

Even my writing’s abhorrent, my poetry’s a mess
Rambles of verses dissonant
None worthy of print or of press

It’s been a while since I penned a rhyme
And I can’t believe it took feeling this way
To finally write down a poem


Take Me to Robben Island

Take me to Robben Island
The blood and bones
The water away washed
Remembrance shown by a pile of stones

Take me to Robbeniland
Where no robins sing
But through the walls I’ll hear the words of Brutus
Echo through the past crying equality ring

The beautiful blue on the shore around
The yellow sun, the smell of salt in the air
Bidding me forget- but I can’t
Screams of lepers countless left without a prayer

Walls whitewashed to near perfection
Empty cells, barren windows, fractured story
Each from these draws his own symbolism
And what I see is a hell in all it’s glory

Take me to Robben Island
I want to again hear the haunted sounds
And when the voices get too loud
Lay me in the water, and set me in the ground


Little Things

There’s a certain magic in the little things
The unrelated, disconnected things
The smell of ageing paper
The spotted tie your father wore
That old photograph you forgot you had
The crack in the wall you’d not noticed before
Those green suspenders
A gift from your cousin Mike
The pink ribbon tied to silver spokes
Of your childhood bike
The gentle scratch of the metal toothed comb
As your mother parted your hair
The smell of strong black tea
That always hung in the morning air
The song whose words you got wrong
But always played on repeat
The patched up tear on your sleeve
The pothole in the middle of the street
These things unrelated
The things you forgot you had
Are the things that remind you
That you too, are quite capable of love.


Go Home Sun, You’re Drunk

Go home sun, you’re drunk
It’s 4am and you’re banging on my window
With your dry heat and persistent rays
This fan just may as well be a heater
I’ve never seen such sweat in all my days

Sun, again-who sent you?
It’s 10am and my feet are sinking
In the deep sand, I waddle like a duck
It’s in my shoes, I’m gathering dust
It’s in my eyes now, what the —-

When are you not overhead?
My face is a permanent scowl
No, I’m not in a mood
You’re just overhead all the time
It’s not nice you know, it’s a little bit rude

Go home sun, you’re drunk
It’s 7pm and you’re still here
With your buzz, and your flies, and your persistent glow
Go home sun, you are drunk
And some of us are just trying to get some sleep, you know


Little Roll

Little roll
Little roll, sitting by my side
Size of my fist when I’m sat down
And when my hands are held high
You pretend to hide

Little roll
So your friends and family moved in
I have your brothers on my thighs
Your sisters on my arms
And I believe that’s your father on my chin

Little roll
Now you’re not so little anymore
You’re bigger and so much bolder
I’ve given up on hiding you
Like I tried so hard to before

Little roll
Does it still make sense to call you that?
You’re on my body, you’re in my head
You’re in their mouths too now
Except they call you fat

Little roll
I guess you came to stay
You’re now a part of me
You fit, so don’t listen to what they say
Because, little roll, I love you anyway


Thank You

When you came into my life, the sun was out
I couldn’t see it on the second floor room
Head high, nose turned, I stood short and stout
My bright yellow sweater standing out in the musty library gloom

You met with an amused smirk
Every word I loudly spoke
In attempt to outsmart, out-edge, to out-quirk
In attempt to conversation provoke

I called you basic, you were dull
And that was honestly, completely true
But you were the simple gentle lull
That would pull me to shore when in the eye of the storm

You taught me words like YOLO
Like, sho, like it’s said swag, not swagger
And I taught you words like Oslo
And made you listen to the likes of Mick Jagger

You showed me that people liked to be the same
That the world was bigger than me and mine
That for some, all they wanted was fame
And that sometimes, that was also fine

Stark opposites, we lived side by side
Me with my dreams, you with your stars
We knew and drew the clear divide
Between yours and mine and ours

Bit by bit, it was ever so slow
The bonds we knew not how to force
Began to loose, tear, cracks show
And our road had reached finally its course

And so you left, and I laughed and I cried
And I laughed yet again
For I thought my soul had died
For I’d never known such pain

When you left, the sun was shining
I saw it this time, to my cheeks it made it’s way
And before I knew it I was closed-eye smiling
For I realised it was okay to be unokay

The sun still shines, and I say to you
Thank you, from the heart of my heart
For the times and the laughs that we both knew
And for the strength to make a new start



When You’re in Nairobi

When you’re in Nairobi, you run
There’s a bus to catch, you make haste
There money to make
There’s no time to waste

When you’re in Lusaka, you run
There’s deadlines to meet
There’s simply no time to stop, no time
To take a look at the people on the street

When you’re in Johannesburg, you run
There’s a reason, afterall, it’s called Jozi
There’s a life about the rush and the buzz
That has no room for the lazy

When you’re in Kafue, oh, when you’re in Kafue
The skies are blue, the hills forever roll
The lily pads on the river, and the blasting train horn
Sugar canes and sweet potatoes raw
In Kafue… Kafue you stroll

– Chiseche

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