Poetry

A Shumba at Shashe

 I knew that it was foolhardy

the moment I swung past the kopje

and, serenaded by Jim Croce,

saw the two of them, armed,

waving me down, pretending

to be a police roadblock.

You were mad to travel that road

after three thirty and I knew it!

When I left Bulawayo

I was determined to reach Plumtree

in time to get to Botswana

for a sundowner by the Shashe.

Leave it too late, and you leave yourself

open to ambush—that’s for sure!

I knew that, but ignored it

like a smoker a worsening cough.

The two of them, drunk or high,

swaying at the side of the road

slapped me like a terminal diagnosis.

No time to go through the stages …

fear, anger, denial …

Their yellow, bloodshot eyes

and cocksure demeanour,

the AK and MAG flapping loosely

at their sides while they waved me down,

sent me straight to acceptance.

Unarmed, I knew I would have to

convince them that I was going to stop;

that their rag tag assortment of camo

had persuaded me that they were police.

With the presence of mind of a patient

being wheeled into an operating theatre

to stall a stuttering inevitability,

I slowed right down winding the window

and leaned forward, smiling, looking into their eyes.

Ten yards away, I plunged my foot down

and sped straight for them.

They leapt aside and time ground to a crawl.

I knew what was to come—

Looking in my rearview mirror

I saw the man with the AK open fire

and, as I had hoped, on automatic,

the barrel lifted too high

while his comrade fumbled his MAG

too late, and I was gone!

Just across the border where it still resembled Zim

I pulled over, the cloud of dust I left trailing

catching and caressing the car

stroking it on the back.

On the gentle breeze and in the dust

I sniffed African rain approaching, and my childhood

put its arm around me.

My eyes filled with tears

and my saliva tasted better

than any beer at Shashe could.

 

Shumba: lion, and a popular brand of beer

Shashe: river in Botswana  

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