Editor’s Note: Featured here is work from The Fictional Café’s 2020 Poet in Residence, Mbizo Chirasha. We begin with the first of two images (above) from his collection entitled “Locked Paddocks,” followed by “Process,” an essay about Mbizo’s search for identity and becoming a “born again human.” Next, we have the second image from “Locked Paddocks” and finally a poem, simply titled “2.” We hope you enjoy the creative work of Mbizo.
“Process,” an Essay
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 sniper’s telescope so 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 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 strangers’ 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 runaway 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 jumps 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, baptised vagabond just got a new name and home. Except, there is a price. The price of up-rootedness 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. And 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 them 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 suffer, 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 spout. 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 me. Now, a seed was lending its lesson on resilience in a language that knows never to give up.
The seed’s concern is not that with disgust it was flung out with a bitter hand. Its purpose was to die so more mangoes could be born. Incapable of placing itself in a fertile place for better chances of survival, it stoically reached out from the ledge of a rocky parch and sent hope of growth through the thin threads of shoots.
And I knew then, what I know now. That am not owed comfort by my persecutors. That if I live or die is not their concern. That how I choose to live from now is not dependent on those who sent me here but on me.
And I was, once more, born again. This time, the rebirth was physically and emotionally painfully personal.
I knew I was not a hero neither a worm. I realized that I had been selfish and unforgiving.
I saw me for whom I had become. A grumpy soul who focused on the injuries I had accrued and not the healing I could embrace by moving on.
Then, from a distance, thunder rolled with a deafening roar. Some fat raindrops drummed on the roof top like kids playing male drums. I looked at my teacher and Baptist, the quiet mango seed, and something passed between the two of us. We are each a brother’s keeper. And as rain pelted the roof more furiously now, I reached out and covered the little tendrils with enough soil to ground the seed to grow. Then, I went back to the veranda of this home away from home facing my cowardly old eyes with the reborn eyes of a creature equal with all other creatures big and small.
Yes. A man defines his circumstances. That’s the wisdom of progress of rebirth taught by the silence of a mango seed.
And while I packed my duffle bag for the next location, I bid goodbye most earnestly to my tutor and mentor from the warm blanket of soil I had heaped on her.
Each raindrop, fast, often furious,
Rushing to greet the earth, often hard and thirsty earth,
Transitioning, into pools, rivulets, and,
Surface runoffs to the drain,
After roots had sucked enough,
To the tributary and mother river,
To the sea or lake,
Far off too, to the ocean,
Steam off the seagull Nation, with waves crashing on whale fins,
Up and up the heat flies up,
Clouds picking wings and forming fluffy feathers,
Am from the South where men play dice with human bones,
And the best use of the mouth is to chew held dreams,
And spit them into fresh graves,
While fathers walk the slow walk of the ninth trimester mother ready to deliver,
Except, the new born is an old lie wrapped in diamond glitter,
Am now in the East, where Christmas happens every market day for those with pockets,
While hunger roams the side streets of those politically incorrect,
Am going to the North, where hope still holds a decent conversation,
And reason is not needed to allow a man to breath,
Invited by a soul who knows my needs and not my name,
Perhaps I may end up West,
Where feathers once adorned a brave head,
There, I might rest a night and a day,
Waiting for paid maladies to find a cure,
And social consultations to search my roots,
At this cross section where my dreams sit anxiously,
Am kept alive by sweat of Angels from
Lands I know from Google map,
Am constantly logged on the accounts of good will,
Never lacking for sleep for the flow of interrupted hope,
I see in my mind’s eye why faith is such a divine virtue,
Hunger has failed to dim my steps,
Cold has refused to deaden my prayers,
Am a warrior first who fights best on his knees,
Pillars that stand like lighthouses never fail to send light my way,
Am mothered by love that is beyond blood and tribe,
As for fathers, their silent arms embrace me from afar,
So dressed in the dusty clothes of a traveler,
Bearing temporariness like a permanent feature,
I transact my steps in Translations of survived hits,
Counting my blessings in the power of ten like Man Musa
And the Commandments, I transition each night
From a wide freelancer boy to a missionary with a mission and vision,
What the world will know one day is this,
Some paths are never chosen by those who walk them,
And that the path does pick pillars to support such a walker,
And I, son of an uprooted existence,
Is borne on this journey by true Angels,
Am a beneficiary so grateful,
That when a tear drops,
I catch it first before heaven thinks am ungrateful.
Dedicated to all the folks who are supportive of me in my exile.
MBIZO CHIRASHA is the 2020 Poet in Residence at The Fictional Café, 2019 Sotambe Festival Live Literature Hub and Poetry Café Curator, 2019 African Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival, Essays Contributor to Monk Art and Soul Magazine in United Kingdom, Arts Features Writer at the International Cultural Weekly, Featured Writer Poet Activist at The Poet A Day, Core Team Member and African Contributor to Bezine of Arts and Humanities in USA, The Originator of the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign, Curator of MiomboPublishing Blog Journal, Founder and Chief Editor of WOMAWORDS LITERARY PRESS, Founder and Curator of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal, Co-Editor of Street Voices Poetry trilingual collection (English, African Languages and Germany) initiated by Andreas Weiland in Germany, Poetry Contributor to AtunisPoetry.com in Belgium, African Contributor to DemerPress International Poetry Book Series in the Netherlands, African Contributor to the World Poetry Almanac Poetry Series in Mongolia, 2003 Young Literary Arts Delegate to the Goteborg International Book Fair Sweden (SIDA AFRICAN PAVILION), 2009 Poet in Residence of the International Conference of African Culture and Development (ICACD) in Ghana, 2009 Fellow to the inaugural UNESCO- Africa Photo- Novel Publishers and Writers Training in Tanzania, 2015 Artist in Residence of the Shungua Mutitima International Film and Arts Festival in Livingstone, Zambia, a globally certified literary arts influencer, Writer in Residence and Recipient of the EU-Horn of Africa Defend Defenders Protection Fund Grant as well as Recipient of the Pen Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant. He is an Arts for Peace and Human Rights Catalyst, the Literary Arts Projects Curator, Poet, Writer, publicist and is published in more than 200 places in print and online. His latest 2019 collection of experimental poetry A LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT was released by Mwanaka Media and Publishing and is both in print, on Amazon. and at is featured at African Books Collective.