In Grandma Rose's kitchen,
near a doorway, stood a wooden chair,
crudely painted white.
It was hard and had no cushion.
Uncle Maxie sat there,
day and night.
Max was brown-haired and slender;
he looked a lot like Grandpa.
His manner was tender,
his face gentle and mild.
When they spoke of him years later,
they would say, "Such a sickly child."
Each time we went to visit,
Max was sitting in his chair,
and the moment that he saw me,
his warm smile appeared.
I sat in his lap, and in our playful way,
we discussed the events of the day.
He had a black and white terrier, Lettie.
She sat at Maxie's feet.
Now and then he reached to pet her.
Lettie's eyes gazed up at us,
while Max spoke soft endearments
that, like an echo, I'd repeat.
Then, one day, we went to Grandma's,
climbed those endless stairs.
When we reached the kitchen, I saw the empty chair,
Lettie lying low and sad beside it.
My Maxie wasn't there.
I toddled toward his bedroom.
Mom following closely behind, scooped me up
and brought me to the parlor,
where the family was gathered,
uncomfortably quiet, staring into air,
sitting forlornly on sofa and chairs.
I looked, but Uncle Maxie wasn't there.
Be they fears or premonitions,
secret desires or admonitions,
these picture-story movie reels,
whatever they reveal or conceal
as they automatically unwind
in my overactive mind,
be they somber and darkly foreboding
or pleasantly engaging as puzzle decoding,
when my body wants its rest,
I welcome dreams. With them, I feel blessed.
The wailing cry of Santa Ana, mourning the transition of seasons,
was the alarm that woke me with a sound as powerful as a jet plane
overhead, reaching, sweeping, and penetrating windows and walls,
as though the walls were wafer-thin, emitting a foreboding chill.
Then through the bathroom skylight, so intense
the roar, atmosphere alive and moving,
a wanton wind waited and called.
From my kitchen window a spectacle of wildly swaying palm trees,
fifty feet high, threatening to crack and crush the roofs of houses,
a catastrophe miraculously avoided by their suppleness
as they continued to perform their frantic dance,
shedding dry fronds into the street,
into the dusty swirl as I watched, mesmerized,
on my way to work, driving a car that was making moves
directed by a co-driver.
The willful wind played its game trying to take control,
but I prevailed, turning into the parking structure,
successfully escaping its pull.
Then walking onto the bridge, stumbling,
fighting my way, walking against its obstinancy as it wrapped my hair
around my face.
I arrived at last on firm ground, spotting a crumpled piece of paper
dropped or thrown and swept up in the flutter. With curiosity,
I picked it up and read—
This time you've won,
but we shall meet
—Photo by Linda Klein
A swathe of flame across the sky
frames the brilliant sun's descent.
We watch—can scarcely breathe, entranced,
romanced by natural beauty.
Shimmering with gold, inky ripples
move along in arcs, sidle up
to kiss our riverboat,
bouncing in slow, gentle rhythm
to the beat of kettle drums.
Dancers sway and dip,
their gleaming faces invite us
to join them.
We sit in rattan chairs on mats
and sip an amber liquid
poured by soft-spoken Zimbabweans
who smile and bow with simple grace,
somehow possessing secret knowledge.
The tea we drink is warm and wild
evoking steamy dreams and passions,
a spicy, floral-scented rooibus
with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg,
which stirs the soul and makes a wish.
May this Zambesi twilight last forever.
Our thanks to Linda Klein for her poetry today, and a note that the photo of the Zambezi River was taken by her at sunset one evening when she was there. For more about the Zambezi River, go to q2travel.co.za/zambezi-river/.
To learn more about traditional Zimbabwean dances,
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.
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