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?
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
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