One hundred percent toasted rye bread.

That is your complexion etched in my memory.

Your eyes are teaspoons of full cream milk with chocolate coins floating in them.

I remember thinking before, as I clung to your neck that you must be made

Of some other substance other than flesh because you smell of coconut and

Your tight curly jet black hair has the scent of almonds all the time,

Especially when you take off your leather beret after a full day in the sun.

I remember the size of your hands that would grip my wrists and whirl me

In uneven circles under the weeping peppercorn tree that always posed

As a willow tree.

Yes. That tree you bejewelled with rope and old tyre to make a swing

For me the summer you came home from Mozambique.

I remember how that summer, your eyes were teaspoons of

Yellow custard with rivulets of raspberry jelly in them.

They had seen the unforgivable atrocities of war and the pain of

Fighting against RENAMO child soldiers.

I have a memory of your voice gently mumbling to mother as she

Lathered Surf handwashing powder in a basin of cold water

To soak your sweaty camouflage,

“They were just kids. They were just kids”

Yes. My favourite yoghurt flavour is still strawberry. I don’t pick out the

Little fruity bits anymore.

I still go mad for chocolate ice cream on a cone. See, you did well.

The karate katas that you poured into me are second nature now.

I breathe them and repeat them in my soul as I watch every sunset I can witness.

I don’t have strong arms like yours but they still throw the shot put the

Way you drilled into my 8 year old frame.

I know you didn’t mean to be hard on me when you made me learn these

Things but, “I was just a kid. I was just a kid”.

Do you remember the afternoon we drove your Chev Air through the Nyanga Mountains

And you told me how I would fall in love?

I did.

He is amazing.

He holds my hand.

He sees me.

He thinks I am strong.

I took your advice in the letter you left before your long journey:

“My son. Don’t compare yourself with other boys. You are different.”

When I met the Loved One, He knew this about me.

Before I let you go, Dear Dad, I would like you to know that

Everything you wanted to say but couldn’t;

Every tear you cried behind closed doors;

Every call you never picked up because you couldn’t;

Every thought that you had of me but never conveyed;

Every heartfelt emotion that you were afraid to show,

I have already converted to beauty which has become

My wisdom.

I love you in ways that words have not even learnt to fathom,

Let alone translate into verbs.

Every morning I clean my steamy mirror I see you peeping through

My secret soul. And it’s beautiful.

You are beautiful.


For Dad. Who believed in me before I even knew myself. 10 April 1956 – 25 July 1998.

Frank Malaba © 2014

Published by: Frank Malaba

Frank Malaba is an actor, playwright and a published poet. He was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. He has performed on stage and television in both countries. He has a passion for using poetry, storytelling and theatre as a method of healing for both himself and others. His poetry has been presented both at home and abroad. Frank is currently developing a two-man play entitled “Broken Pathways” which will be touring internationally. In 2014 Frank was recognised by Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans as an Achiever in the category of Arts & Culture.

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