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Birds breaking from trees | Farai Chaka

Birds breaking from trees | Farai Chaka

Birds breaking from trees - Farai Chaka | Agbowo


In uptown streets and markets          my English fails me on the tongue

and melts away like butter kissed by heat          all my life I’ve been

cradled by language          made to go to brick churches where God’s words

shifted into my native tongue and became stunning like birds breaking from

trees          English was fed to me like thick porridge

from a dirty bowl          shoved down the throat and commanded

to return as orchestral song          as beauty          as dazing

like azaleas bursting out of a mouth          we were made to believe 

that God’s face was the colour of the moon          and his language

only pushed out through the nose          my ancestors lived to see

their mountains and caves treated as unsacred          l try 

to remember this each time l face an altar of inscribed brimstone

and pray in a language that was birthed elsewhere          today

I have taught myself to not write in Shona          and

the guilt is like the shape of God moving through a corn field –

present and heavy          on drunken nights all my friends

make confessional monologues in curled English accents          and

I am the only one who slumps on mud grey floors          and wonder

why language fails when l need it most          today

I am moved by phonetics          say zvirokwazvo and I’ll burst

into cascade everlasting          say musikavanhu and the night

will uncurl itself into brightness          l pride myself in this

dazzling movement of sound          of a tongue bowing to submission

to history         to heritage          no one else understands this

as a child the first phrase l memorised was          Vongai Jehovah

nekuti wakanaka          and that sweetness cut away my tongue

until l was a tangle of light and glory          in uptown streets and markets

everyone speaks English flowing smoothly like oil running down

an annointed’s hair          no one feels guilty for it

I am the only one who slumps down into silence          and chew my tongue

until l am calm again

Farai Chaka

Farai Chaka is a twenty-year-old writer from Harare, Zimbabwe. He enjoys long walks and horror shows during his free time.

Photo by Erika Fletcher on Unsplash

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