Kabete

Kabete red-earth days.  It was like an idyll. Long days rolled into each other; languid days, unconscious of how the winds of change were blowing ever harder, through the Rift Valley and the Highlands, picture-perfect beach holidays of white sands, empty except the occasional dhow bringing the daily catch. These were the sun-felt days, palm-lined in memory. Blissful growing up, journeying outwards, eventually very much aware of how my mind had been colonised in a superiority that – thank goodness – now has been tossed into the rubbish bin of history. Ever grateful for the rescue, I catch a glimpse of these days in the playbook, horrified – how the nostalgia is a narcotic for those who were never there but read, second or third hand, in adventure books telling the lie of a people’s greatness.

© Rick Frame


Snatched

Bird wing, sky flap. The countryside of small dwellings, the distance between towns forever. Thorn trees and rocks kept company. The hills, there in the east, blue under the sun-scorch. It was December after all. Red leather stuck to white legs, the black Zephyr glided northwards. Children ran to wave and we waved back. Their minds colonised like ours. The road’s ghosts shimmered in the distance. Or did they dance? There was silence, the odd comment, a landmark in this country – ever since – that has taken up squatter rights. Tired from the long journey that had a new meaning. It was a going backwards really. A claim only to keep back the tide of history, headlong into the wind of change. Going against the grain for a lost cause. Pumped up, brainwashed. We are a courageous people. The nonsense we then believed. My English settler grandmother had forded rivers, now bridged, built on the Black backs of tough labour. We arrived in the one horse town, chimney-stacked, – one of my first memories – a birth place now a century ago. The hotel with its coke and snack embraced, satiating hollow legs. I had woken earlier, urged to remember. Lost memories snatched before noon.

© Rick Frame


Fading light


The lingering lightness of the memory of Aprils in Africa; it comes back to me in a half-dream of exquisite hope. I sit and scan the oceans. Thoughts came across the seas with the white horses. I yearn for the smell of Africa after the rain. I am intoxicated by the thought. The sun suddenly goes out and a cold wind catches the breath. The yearning for a place lost whispers me into my older life. Strangely I feel at peace and delight that I have had these experiences in a far-off land. The thought wraps itself around me in the rising mist of the English coast and I am reminded of the beauty of the world in the fading light.


Originally written in 2014. Slightly adapted.

Smithereens

I am trying to find my seventeen year old self in the fog. Hindsight sits under the retina of how I see it from the distance of adulthood.

The time between then and now takes away the authenticity of how I probably felt.

The war came in an announcement by a commissioned officer to a group of sixth form boys.

“Gentlemen, Rhodesia is at war.”

I felt instantly irritated. At the time, I thought the man absurd. The origins of the annoyance probably lay in the fact that I probably knew he was right. My little world in smithereens because of one sentence.

This much I know: that idyll was based on privilege and ignorance. That this war was fought on a fabrication – aren’t they all? The lies they told us. The lies that we believed.

And so the men and women who desired freedom more than life came with their battle cries – they swept a way of life into the bin. We are scattered now, our childhoods gone.

This much I remember. After a couple of drinks out on the lawn the adults’ tone more aggressive, the pejorative smacked against the lips. People dehumanised.

The fog was lifted during a coming of age. There is no dreaming, hoping, desire to recreate something that was built on the quicksand of injustice and oppression.

It should remain in smithereens.

 

Note to reader: The piece I wrote refers to the year 1973. The Bush War in Rhodesia had started in December 1972. I later learned that the insurgency against white rule had started as early as 1966 when the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) engaged with the Rhodesian police near Sinoia on the 28th April 1966. It is recognised as the first battle of the Second Chimurenga.

 

You call often

My mother said you were God’s own country. I now know why. 

I write words of love in the sand of places where we roamed amongst the rocks and rivers. You can see them in our footprints and hear our songs. I see your sky and dust. I hear your laughter. You are on the line and you whisper dreams. You talk of our ghosts. We are often raw in memory.

So, I slide into a dream of a place where we planted a treasure of youth. I arrive at the place in the the early light of memory. The dream is not fixed but rather is infused and layered: you lie naked in the slip-stream. Rivers run through you and the salty air catches my skin in the night storm. I am your prisoner. It is not possible to be released. And the memory dances to the next tune: you breathe in the valley below. The willow trees outline the river and I can hear you call out a dream of Africa. It haunts me still.

I want to see you tonight dressed in the stars of the southern sky, playing the insect chorus and I want to feel your falling warmth in the end-day on my skin. You say the words out loud in an orchestra of strings. You are the sky played on the earth with wind that lights on the morning Venus star.

I found a memory discarded on a table where I sat for hours dreaming of being in another place. I want to return. And as the midnight hour descends, memories of tubing in hot-valleyed rivers surprise me with their intensity.

I remember how you took my breath away. I could see forever into the blue hills seated under the sky. I am standing in the clouds. Your thorn trees and brown skyline sit under my skin. You surprise me often with the way you collide with my present. You call often. Why?

© Rick Frame


We were all gone

One morning we were all gone, roots torn out by a giant wind.

Buried in the place, deep in the earth, memories remain untouched: the treasure of childhood. They exist in fragments of a couple of scribblings. The occasional reunion draws them out and they live in that exquisite moment of laughter and, the not so, where they ride out vociferous with pain.

The music on the turntable surprises me and tunes me into the ghosts that dream in the sky and earth of Africa. They were happy times. I am ambushed by another thought – when I look back, they were times bent out of hue by the context of privilege. I am snagged, torn in two, by a place where discrimination and injustice scorched the skin and burned the landscape. Straddling both now becomes impossible to hold in my head.

Excavated memories in the archaeology of a childhood are returned to the earth waiting for another time. The giant wind roars in the distance. Our roots are simply memories.

© Rick Frame


In the early morning

I need to tell you what it was like. The only existence of it now lies in my memory. It is about a time lost – in this act of telling it will live and breathe by itself.

I am in its bloodstream, in its heart and lungs, in its brain and thoughts and senses – under its skin. I travel through this landscape of memory like a frequent visitor, discovering a terrain that I thought was gone forever: when I left you, without a second glance, I quickly missed you more than you can imagine. At the time, I only half denied this feeling. (The shock of the separation has come back to me.) I remember I had become embarrassed that I had known you in my childhood and youth and, when others talked about you, I didn’t even admit I knew you. I simply did not wish to be associated with you and so I existed as if I had never known you. I loved you but I hated the attitude you had. I loathed your racism and rejected you: you who had been in my blood and bones. It comes at me that there were other you’s and the one that I had known was simply an aberration and I could have found the other parts of you and made my peace with that. Your landscape haunts me nightly. I go to your loveliness in my dreams. Your heat and dust, your hills and valleys. Your trees on the blue skyline glide in a song of astonishment. Your balancing rocks that I played on. Your rain on my window. Your light in the morning and your glow worms at night. I existed on you, in you, by you and and grew up with you. You come at me in senses and thoughts. When I die there will only be some scribblings and jottings, the odd bit of poetry to tell what you were like. In this morning of an early sunrise, it’s not been entirely possible even now to capture it. I hope you understand.

© Rick Frame