Sunday, 23 June 2019

My Long Lost Love...Poem By Bertha Mukodzani

Internet Image

I keep a trunk under my bed,
Occasionally crack its rusty lock
to reveal bundles of epistles from yesteryear,
before the winds of separation tore a rift so wide.

I remember the sound of your footsteps,
as you tracked behind me after school,
the warmth of your surreptitious hand,
as you slid a page into my pocket, 
the sound of your unassuming voice,
and the look in your eyes,
that finally jolted my heart into submission.

There is something about the earthy pages,
that reminds me of our first heady kiss beneath the tree,
on that sweltering summer’s day,
when due to sudden terror, I spoke of Baba’s menacing rage,
should he unmask the designs of our hearts.
Tender-aged, I had no business falling in love.
Still, I harboured faith in your stamina,
your determination to confront his disdain.
The world could hang for all I cared.

What we’d planted could never be uprooted,
Love that survived our aching bellies,
when savage locusts stripped the fields bare,
and the treacherous terrains we scaled
barefoot for our daily dose of tutelage,
not to mention the green-eyed monster.
We plodded along,
dodging every peril like soldiers in the Gulf war.

We had glorious plans to sheath our minds
Plans for our future,
And it was not long before you gained your worldly ticket.
Perseverance and sagacity had finally granted you victory.

Now, seasons have rolled into decades,
and all I have to show are these yellowing sheets.
Tears have dried, and yet the heart still bleeds.
As I dissect every word, phrase, and sentence wreathed with the promise -
I shall return, I will marry you someday.
I exhale a huge breath,
A breath of exasperation.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Price of Going Viral

Image Courtesy of the Internet

A while ago, a friend of mine forwarded me a video of a man lying on the floor, foam seeping through his mouth, begging his wife (the one shooting the video), to save him as he was dying.

Fast forward, 2 months later, as I scrolled through my Facebook wall, I saw several other videos - a woman being beaten to a pulp by her husband, a husband exposing his wife for the whore she was, announcing to the world he was divorcing her.

You would think that's all fake news, wouldn't you? No. None of it was, and I can’t help but wonder about the kind of society we have become.

Granted, unfettered access to platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have opened doors for many, myself included. Social media:

§  Introduces us to people we would not otherwise meet in real life.

§  Reunites long lost friends while blessing us with new ones.

§  For burgeoning writers, social media broadens one’s horizon. Had I not embraced Twitter, for example, I would not have taken part in pitch contests for my yet to published manuscript or received the valuable feedback I need.

§  Social media has also become a place to unwind, air one’s views, share knowledge, experiences and gain inspiration and insight into the world at large.

§  As every honest, adept social media user will tell you, there is something soul-stirring about seeing the number of views for your video rise. Of seeing that ‘like’, ‘love’, ‘retweet’ and ‘comment’ notification pop on your screen. A chemical called dopamine is released into our body, and we can’t help but feel a surge of pleasure that comes with it.

§  Humans are gregarious creatures and with that comes the occasional craving of validation. We revel knowing that our selfies, motivational messages and videos are well-received and that we have secured our own little community. One that embraces our so-called brand.

§  What’s not to like about following someone’s journey to Timbuktu, watching videos of animals being rescued, men surprising their girlfriends with marriage proposals, a baptism perhaps?

§  I’ve seen people gain instant fame and success via social media. Sometimes all it takes is sharing a status, tagging someone, retweeting and a mention for the right person to discover raw talent.

Wonderful things happen when human beings embrace their uniqueness, authenticity and creativity, offering something no one else can to the world. Isn’t that what we all desire? To bless the world with our gifts and talents, and to show what we bring to the table. Social media has made this dream even more accessible to most of us.

But, during my years of scrolling through my timeline, I’ve noticed an eerie trend. A much dark side of social media that causes us to sacrifice our rationality, humanity and dignity for instant gratification. One must be heard and be seen now.

          “I have a three-strike rule. If I post 3 times and you don’t like, I’m unfollowing you,” one Twitter user wrote.

          “To all my haters who only read but never like or share, f**k you,” another ranted.

One Facebook user, after going live and getting 12 views deleted their video and suspended their account. They were done!

The problem with dopamine is that it is addictive, which means we must constantly seek the same level of attention to remain satisfied and sane. It is no longer about seeking our hearts and doing what’ right. It’s about how big a tribe can I pull by doing this? 

Unfortunately, for some of us, that means resorting to deprave means to gain popularity and the following are some of the pitfalls:

§  Our hearts have become somewhat hardened and we become immune to human suffering. For example, what would be one’s motive for standing in a crowd, hiding behind a camera, acting aloof while recording a painful incident instead of coming to the rescue?

§  We all want our fifteen minutes of fame. To be the one that saves the day by providing evidence or highlighting a situation, but at what cost? Why is it no longer enough to do a good deed in secret and still be satisfied?

§  The so-called ghost accounts have made it possible for people to settle scores via social media. Information shared in confidence is shared needlessly, giving little regard for the consequences. We no longer know how to confront issues in person and resolve conflicts behind closed doors. Instead, we seek justice by airing our dirty laundry in public. When we've all logged out of our devices, no one spares a thought for the ruined lives. a

§  Thanks to smartphones, we have mastered the art of doctoring images to name and shame or out of revenge. Even if one eventually proves their innocence, isn't the damage already done? This little regard for human dignity has been the cause of many a suicide. 

  §  Need I remind you of the terrorists who showcase their work on social media?

I once read an article that claims inhumanity has always been ingrained in us, and that social media has just brought things to light. That may be true, but now that we are aware of the consequences, isn’t it time that we work towards curbing the problem and going back to the basics?

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Unwanted Stranger...Flash Fiction by Bertha Mukodzani

 Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’
Martin Luther King Jr.

Image From the Internet
The man clenched his jaw. He circled me as he scanned my body, examining my arms, thighs, chest and behind. This unwanted stranger, who had not uttered a single word since he slithered into my bedroom, carried himself like he owned the air I breathed. Something in his eyes and the way his mouth contorted told me I disgusted him. Why was he even here?
     ‘I suppose you will do,’ he finally muttered.
     His voice was soft. Too soft for a man, I thought. His dull green eyes resembled the colour of frogs bundled in the corner of a riverbank. When he leaned closer, I wilted under his gaze.
     ‘Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.’ He grinned, the wrinkles under his eyelids deepening. The scar sliced horizontally across his forehead shifted towards his hairline. 
     Pivoting on my trembling legs in the middle of the room, I gathered my nerves and glared at him. ‘I am not scared, Sir.’
     ‘Then we have nothing to worry about,’ he said with a smile.
     His teeth were flawless. Neat rows of pearly whites. From the look of his clothes, shoes and accessories, he was from a wealthy background. He looked and smelt better than the others. The kind of man who could hand out a big fat cheque without wincing. Not that it mattered or changed anything. I did not know my worth; I was not to know.
     ‘Nice hair,’ the man said.
     I jerked my hand towards my head covered with a triumphant carpet of long, brown weave. ‘Thank you, Sir.’
     Adrenaline coursed through my veins at the thought of what was coming. Even though I had spent the entire morning steeling myself for this man’s arrival, seeing him undress me with his lecherous eyes made me realise just how unprepared I was. This was indeed happening, and no pep talk would quell my anxiety.
     ‘This will be a quick one. I have a meeting with my boss around lunchtime. After that, another briefing with a colleague. Can you imagine? What a drag.’
     It amazed me how the men Derek sent my way expected me to care about their lives. They griped and grumbled, sharing their problems as if it was part of the package. As if my grasping of their world somehow legitimised their presence. But I knew my place, so I put on my usual Oscar-winning performance.
     ‘I wouldn’t know, Sir, but it sounds interesting. You must be a very important man, Sir.’ I forced a smile.
     Derek Thomas insisted on perfection.
     Nausea rose in my stomach when the man unbuckled his belt, dropped his trousers, and laid bare what was underneath. Oh, God, why me? My chest tightened, and I struggled to breathe. 
     Using a blue handkerchief, the man wiped glistening sweat from his forehead and tucked a wisp of ginger hair behind his ears. ‘Don’t worry. I am a simple man. Just take your clothes off and turn around. I will be done in a jiffy, as they say.’ He gave a nervous laugh. 
     There was nothing simple about this man. Or any of the clients I had seen, for that matter. Hesitantly, I turned around as instructed. To my surprise, the man paused. Had he changed his mind and wanted to talk instead? Alas, my hope was in vain; he then ordered me to bend down. With fearful bewilderment rising inside me, I did as I was told and primed myself for what was coming. 
     Grabbing me by the waist, he thrust his manhood into me and rode me like a horse. To avoid wailing, I gritted my teeth and ignored his hot breath and the perspiration dampening the small of my back. I willed my mind to wander. Back to my childhood, living with my parents. Back to the time I used to play skip with my friends in the school playground. I imagined myself inside my mother’s kitchen, sampling her fried, pumpkin leaves and sadza. My happier days, when life was simple. There was nothing I would not give to go back and undo all the things I had said to my parents when they tried to teach me right from wrong. If only I had listened to their ancient stories, which at the time seemed far-fetched. I felt a wrenching inside. A sadness so encompassing I wanted to die. I had brought this upon myself. All of it.
     A jerk and a groan later, it was all over. I came back to reality, watching the wretched man clean himself dry with the handkerchief he had used to wipe his face. Then he quickly got dressed.
     ‘Mind if I smoke?’ he asked, already dipping his hands into his pocket.
     Shivering like a reed, I shook my head.  
     He drew a cigarette from a shiny silver case, inserted it between his lips, and lit up a match. Smoke billowed around the room as he took a drag and released. Despite feeling the comings of a headache, I kept my face choreographed to his taste.
     ‘I’m Patrick, by the way. You are?’ He ejected another puff into the air.
     ‘You already know my name, Sir.’ I dodged his eyes.
     ‘Yeah, yeah, I know your business name. I meant the name your parents gave you.’
     If this was business, then I was Oprah freaking Winfrey, I thought. ‘I am Maka. Short for Makanyara.’
     Patrick dipped a nod. ‘I don’t know what that means, but it sounds nice. I dare say it’s pretty. And, well, enterprising.’ His compliment curdled into mocking.
     I managed to feign another smile, despite the loathing in my heart. According to Derek’s word, I was to conceal my emotions, withhold opinion, and avoid getting personal with my clients. My utterances were restricted to casual pleasantries, unless the men insisted on more. I was a robot.
     Patrick ambled towards the window, opened it, and tossed the burning cigarette on the lawn outside. Then, he walked back to where I sat curled around the contours of my plump, fluffy pillow, unable to move. He glanced down at me, tossed a wad of notes in front of me, and sauntered towards the door. As he reached for the handle, he turned around and beamed. ‘I shall be requesting your services again. I think I like you after all. Something about you.’ 
     With those words, he slammed the door behind him.
    Despite his smile and his voice, Patrick had a hard look about him. He reminded me of the previous client who slapped me across the cheek for refusing to be tied to the bed pole. That nasty man had made a complaint to Derek and removed himself from the register. I welcomed his departure, but he left a yoke around my neck. For a month, I wasn’t allowed to take advantage of my weekly chaperoned shopping. The only time I tasted the sweet smell of freedom, though tense and awkward it was.
     I collapsed on the bed face down. Unable to contain the pressure in my head, the throb between my legs, and the ache in my heart, I sobbed. I sobbed for my sorry little life. For what I had become.
     I was about to take a shower when another intrusive knock struck the door. Patrick must be returning for some item he had forgotten in my room, I thought. I sprang to my feet, shifted my eyes around the room, lifted the pillow, rolled back the rug, scanned under the bed and checked behind the door. There was nothing that belonged to Patrick. As I darted out of my room and towards the front door to allow him back in, something dawned on me. Without making a sound, I peeped through the keyhole and saw two men in black uniform standing on the other side. The men had portable radios stuffed in their pockets. One of them held what appeared to be a notebook. A diary, perhaps. I had heard stories about the men in uniform who patrolled the neighbourhood and made impromptu home visits. At the time, I did not pay close attention. People said a lot of things, especially my fellow immigrants. ‘Don’t do this. Don’t say that. Always carry this.’ It was as if I were a child. Looking at the two men outside, though, something in my stomach churned.
     With my heart pounding, I tip-toed back to my bedroom, slipped under the duvet cover, coiled my body up in a fetal position, and held my breath. The tapping persisted, sending disquieting vibrations into my stomach. It had been years since I ditched my nail-biting habit, but my thumb found its way into my mouth, my teeth tearing at the fingernail. After moments of quietly begging the good Lord to put an end to the incessant knocking, my head went into a spin, and an ache shot across my forehead. I suppose my nerves could only endure the terror for so long before my body went into a violent protest.

     After what seemed an age, the knocking stopped. I crept out of my room, teetered towards the front door, and pressed my ears against it, listening for movement. Any sound to alert me to danger. To satisfy my mind, I peered through the window in the living room and inspected the driveway. I exhaled, and my thrumming heart rested when I saw no car and no shadow of the two men. Sinking into the couch in one corner of the room, I covered my face with both hands and stilled my body, digesting everything. Then I let the tears seep through my fingers. When was this going to end? 

Sunday, 1 July 2018

My BBC Radio Berkshire Interview...

Tune in to #BBC #Radio #Berkshire tonight as I chat with the beautiful presenter, Bridgitte Tetteh from 8 pm to 9pm. 

We discuss everything from African culture to politics and immigration. I also read a poem I wrote. You really don't want to miss it. 

Click the link to listen online and for the podcast BBC Radio 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Dear Dad,

I am writing to tell you why the month of April haunts me.

It is the month we bade you a final farewell, all those years ago. At your funeral, people wailed, I wailed, and songs depicting your character tore the atmosphere. Finally, you were at peace. Since then, the memories you left behind have become taxing on the heart and soul. 

We were close; as close as father and daughter can get. You were not one for gushing, but your love was noticeable in the little things–your smile, your lousy jokes, your far-fetched tales, your warm gaze when you thought no one was watching, and in the way you hammered into me that the only inheritance worth having was a sound education. 

I get it now, I really do.

You entertained my curious mind, all that endless talk about my dreams, and you believed I could become whoever I wanted to be. You said all I needed was to be grounded, to have the faith and courage to hold on to my authenticity and uniqueness. To cement your words, you reined in on my immaturity and over-inflated confidence by recounting poignant moments where you had experienced failure, missed an opportunity and took unnecessary risks. However, you were quick to heighten my spirits by stating that life had not denied you some glory. From your overflowing bag of wisdom, you drew upon your success stories. How you scaled your trips around the world; and navigated the challenges of diversity as you interacted with people from all walks of life, among other things.

Of all the things I remember about you, it is your belief in your ancestors that I found staggering. I was a Christian; you regarded yourself as more spiritual than anything else. As I write this, my mind recalls one of our conversations where you spoke in riddles:

‘Can you see it?’  
‘See what?’
‘The future.’
‘What? In your palm?’
‘Yes, and yours my dear child, is as bright as the morning star. Look, right there.’

I creased my brow, laughed, shook my head in disbelief at your unearthly utterings. It was utter nonsense, and yet I hung onto every word. You became my muse. Now, having experienced life as I have, I know why you did it.

The last day we talked, you ditched your usual eccentricity and crammed your speech to give me the abbreviated version of your sentiments. You did not mince your words for you knew we had limited time. I treasure those final words. Sacred words of the dying every loved-one seeks to find closure.

I wish I could say that the adage time heals all wounds rings true for me. It does not. 

After your untimely departure, I rode the dragon of grief just like everyone else. I heeded the advice you gave me over the years. I am grateful for your preparation which gifted me with the resilience to withstand tough times. The foundation you laid, cultivated in me, a rooted sense of self, and the propensity to accept that, in life, we do not always get what we want, when we want. You taught me that sometimes down is up and lost is found.

And yet, the ache of longing for your presence never fades.

During my rueful moments, my mind threatens to explode with pent-up emotions. I have things to say. Things to show you. If only you could feast your eyes on what I have achieved. It is not much, but you would have rejoiced and reminded me, with a smug look on your face, of the day I dubbed you a crazy old man because of your weird prophesying. I regret you are not here to listen to your grandchildren’s crazy stories, perhaps teach them a thing or two. I want to whine about my problems, share my joys with you, and seek your advice, draw from your well of wisdom, but I can’t.

Your face has become elusive in my dreams. I see your lips moving, but your voice is distorted, and I do not understand the words you speak. There is a misty fog billowing around you, and my eyes cannot penetrate through it. Everything has become a blur.

You were not the most perfect dad in the world, but in my eyes, you were kind and prudent. 

Despite your flaws, you insisted on my schooling. 

You were by no means the perfect parent, but you were the one who stayed. 

There have been many seasons since your passing, but I am still consumed with rage. My heart still jolts from the harsh reality–you are gone forever, and all I have are the relics of my heartache, the constant reminder being the tombstone under which you lay interred in the cold grave.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Friends Like These

Image courtesy of the internet

If you are like me, then you have friends or have had friends with whom you parted or who have become mere acquaintances. Perhaps, you wish you had the foresight not to have lingered for as long you did when they manifested themselves in your life. Take heart, I am here to open your eyes as to which kind of friend deserves you. 

There are what I call good weather friends. Those who overlook you and seek the pleasure of your company at their convenience. This kind of friends cannot handle your strife and tolerate you when the sea is calm. Should you find yourself in the throes of trials and tribulations, their phones become unreachable, and your messages are never returned. They are forever rebuffing your invitations and cries for help and apologising for their busy schedules which deprive them of your friendship. 

Some friends invite you for coffee to assure you of their perpetual sympathy. They console you but never splurge on congratulations on your victory, achievements and success. Their habitual pitying words give them the upper hand and feed their superiority complexes. Like ticks, they suck every detail about your sorry little life only to jeer and spread it like the gospel when your back is turned.

You are so strong, I admire you. I will lend you a tenner, pay me when you can. Ah, poor you, I don’t know if I could have survived your ordeal. Why don’t you do this to avoid a, b, c, happening in the future? 

Their tongues are like daggers piercing your chest. Your blood boils as you watch the condescension in their carefully modelled faces. Their snide remarks are swathed in tenderness, compassion and concern, but really, they are aimed at reducing you to size and making you feel worthless. 

Deep down, you know that were it not for the circumstances that compel you to endure such degrading insinuations, you would have the gumption to rid yourself of such poison and set your sights at cultivating better friendships for yourself.

Then they are vile friends. Those who sit back and watch you heading towards disaster. They foresee danger and your demise but choose to withhold counsel. Like the chameleon that changes to suit its environment, they sing your praises in your presence, to inflate your ego and give you a false sense of security, but participate in your slander and whisperings about your shortcomings. Some of these friends genuinely do not want to ruffle anyone’s feathers and do not know what they stand for. But among these, are those secretly itching for your downfall. Beware.

Only when you find yourself in the pit of hell, do you become privy to such friends’ real thoughts. Their real character. You should have, why didn’t you, had you, I wish. What’s the bloody use?

If I have dampened your spirits, do not despair. There are great friends out there. Friends who see the tears behind your smile. Loving friends gifted with the discernment to know what I am doing just fine really means.

Everyone deserves to have that one friend to whom they can empty their heart and soul. The one who will jealously guard their deepest and darkest secrets and take them to the grave. That friend who brings out the best in them, cries with them, celebrates with them and stands firmly by their side even when the universe condemns them. The kind of friend who is not too proud to say I am sorry, I need your help, I love you.

If no one has ever said wake me up anytime, I will be there it is time to change your circles. If none among your friends has ever chided you behind closed doors and spoke the harsh truths no one dares to utter to your face, and later hugged you, then it is time to do some soul-searching.

This kind of friend does exist. When you find them, treasure them for they are rare.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

How Time Has Changed Me

I can’t say I remember my suckling or cooing days. Neither can I claim to know for sure if I was a terrible toddler or not. What I can vouch for are the marks tattooed on my legs and forehead. Mama tells me they are monuments of the numerous falls sustained during my tender years. She has recounted to my horror, my audacious attempts at clambering the tall mango tree in our backyard at three! And how I slapped other children across their cheeks and watched them wail, unfazed, devoid of emotion. I am also told I once chortled and tried to reach for the slithery viper that crept into our living room. Thank God, Mama was always there to save me from myself.

There is a phase my memory has not deceived me. The time the upbeat, patriotic songs blared on the street corners and lyrics of Michael Jackson and Grace Jones thumped through open windows and muffled gramophones. I remember reciting every verse of Nothing is Gonna Stop Us Now and painting my diary pages with every word. My interests were innocuous at first. But as the music took on a new meaning, I was no longer just chanting, scribbling and dancing to the rhythm. To the boy who sent my pulses racing, I professed I Will Always Love You. When he shattered my heart into a thousand pieces, I begged him to Come Back to Me. I was just another Broken-Hearted Girl. Each melody, each beat, every phrase, became poignant, sacred and meaningful. An allegory for my life. 

Those in the know say I was just a teenager with raging hormones. 

But I swear the world was conspiring against me. How else could I explain other girls having superior coiffures? Or that my bulging thighs were an eyesore even in steeply priced habiliments father bought with his hard-earned cash? By now I had sassed what calls for flattery and roused the opposite sex, and it was nothing I possessed. Nothing I could pin down. Is it any wonder jealousy, self-doubt and paranoia consumed me? 

Then I took a stab at engineering my transformation. Skin lightening creams, hot combs and Palazzos came to the rescue. I am thankful there was no Snapchat and Instagram to increase the torture. Looking back now, I cringe at the things I did. What was I thinking? It was inevitable, I suppose, that gradually I would embrace who I was. It turns out, being me is okay. My looks do not define me. There is more to me than my hoarse voice and knobbly knees. My intelligence matters. I could shift my focus towards greater heights. Reach for the stars. Become the so-called woman of substance. 

There are things I wish I had, want to have like yesterday, but I try not to dwell on what I cannot change or control. I am learning to trust the process. Friends and the need to belong are essential to me. But I am also at peace in my own company. When I experience defeat, my mantra is to try, try, try again. I pride myself on my resilience. My ability to bounce back. For how can I grow if I do not fall?

Somewhere within me, lies a passion for igniting. I have something to offer, not only to my family or my immediate surroundings but the world. It’s funny how an appetite develops into insatiable hunger. The realisation that there is an entire world to explore. Something else. I derive satisfaction from motherhood, wifehood, occupation, and all that which makes me a grounded being, I suppose, but should I suffer for wanting more? Striving for more? Geography and responsibilities do not a hindrance make. Personal expansion is mine for the taking. But first, I must know - what is my purpose? 

With each season, I become my own philosopher, pondering, searching and demanding answers to life's tough questions. I know little, but I have heard and read the success stories. The great men and women inventors. The DaVincis of our time. Writers and performers, and those whose names are not visible among the stars but have changed the world all the same. Who am I to stand in my way? I could write the world's most celebrated novel or find the cure for cancer. This fire is past kindling. Perhaps one day, like the cleansing furnace, it will rid me of the disquieting voice. That constant whisper that nudges me towards greatness and prompts me to find a reason to live. My purpose. Meaning.

Inevitably, I will enter my twilight years. Without a shred of doubt, I know that when the time comes, it will be the cacophony of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren's whines and feet that will afford me the most pleasure. I will treasure the feel of their tiny hands exploring the contours of my wrinkled face. I will attend to their questions with as much zeal as the desire I have to make sense of it all now. I shall drown in their stunned, twinkly eyes when they listen to my tales. I will chuckle when they gasp at my ancient words. For it matters not if they get it or not. Because in the years to come, they will. 

When the time comes for me to slow down, cross over to the other side, I want to reflect, inhale and exhale, knowing I did all I could. That I swum with the sharks and survived. That I swung for the fence, reached my full potential and fulfilled my destiny. Or at least gave it a whirl. 

Hey, come back soon!