By Richard Chirombo
At the accident scene lay a lifeless picture,
More intact than the frame of its fallen beauty who,
Like the broken glass which, on the unconsenting road, made for its pieces a home,
Had, by the impact of the collision, been broken into perceived glasses of immortality:
A passenger stripped of luggage and citizenship;
Oh, forsaken by hope, wishes, and intimacy, too-
Which intimacy the sobbing and shaking man,
With that ‘survivor’, intact picture in two unstable hands,
Pressed against his broken heart,
A dozen inches below that big, open, toothless mouth-
Had mercilessly been denied
Under the pile of two dozen rains!
That had injured him, the bachelor neighbour, so deeply then
He vowed never to see her again
Or maim her if chances so permitted,
And make her his own.
Now, looking at the ownerless picture,
Whose being had, in real time, him- then a young, handsome, hot-blooded virgin man,
A merciless batterer of the dead, global animal skin- rebuked in the rudest of manners:
“She twisted her lips like a broken bicycle rim;
No, that was bad-
Why get the eyes’ whites so prominently out,
And not the tears women are renowned for?
Why look towards the sky,
And my eyes not?
What is she afraid of?
Afraid that she may behold the invisible tears washing down my heart?
Rounded like M’bona’s Khulubvi shrine!
Who does she take herself for?
Well, one day we shall see,
I will pluck those eyes out!”
That’s what the young man had said,
Promising to get even with the warmly lady and not this orphaned picture;
And darkness matured into day, and days collapsed into nights,
As the patient man waited for his sunny day,
This rude woman to maim,
And make her his own!
“Are you sick, Police Commissioner?” the junior police officer asked his toothless boss,
Surprised that, instead of saving the dozen surviving commuter bus victims,
The boss found sense in saving a mere picture, holding it hard against his restless chest!
So helpless had the boss become, he threw his official battle stick and cap aside,
And washed the lifeless picture with his own tears;
White tears dropping from those red-shot eyes,
Eyes that, in forty years of law enforcement, had many a criminal cowed into countless confessions
And, for the sobbing cop, countless promotions earned!
What? Everybody knew that it was on account of those eyes, and not qualifications, that the Police Commissioner got his invisible feet up the progression ladder.
On that account, red-shot eyes, he dribbled his tea-burnt tongue around the invincible walls of his present-wife’s resistance to love overtures;
In fact, it was not only one woman on whose head he got his name pasted,
He wagged his tongue into three hearts, and got his bidding
“Who is sick?” he had shot back, always quick to hide his emotions in tough talk.
Fellow officers, he shot with intimidating questions.
Criminal suspects, he shot with his eyes-
Static criminal suspects, that is;
The clever-legged he shot with live ammunition-
A man of ‘shooting’ habits,
His relentless wife he ‘shot’ with the pocket,
Leaving no money for relish to shoot her stubbornness down,
Whenever she ‘handcuffed’ her own legs with muscles,
Pulling them together by sheer will,
And, then, hiding the two folded legs,
In the two-decades old red pair of bed sheets,
Their companion since Ground Zero in marriage!
Clasping the warmth-stripped picture,
The Police Commissioner asked to be excused from the accident scene,
Overridden by the desire to see the cold less picture in his marital bedroom,
And, then, from the sheer satisfaction of discovering his youth hood tormentor,
To pieces his tormentor’s picture tear,
And the beautiful- lady-now-fallen, into bits, pieces and fragments of fading memories turn
Food for enduring anger.
The heart-arrest happened as the police officer- a scissors and waste- bin having prepared-
Was looking at his youth hood tormentor’s picture for the last time.
It fell, the side with the accident victims’ face facing the roof,
On his bare, hairless chest
Immediately sticking to the sticky liquid that was tears and saliva,
Next to his erect, traditional iron spear,
That always stood there, an inch from his feet.
His wife, their two months-old daughter warmly cuddling
Bounced into the room two hours later and- upon finding his husband to his chest a picture so affectionately hold, angrily asked:
“You said you loved nobody else but me!
You said you loved me!
Then, her mouth with both hands touching,
Forgot she the one-and-a-half year baby in her hands,
And the baby’s head, on the forgotten spear smashed,
One more food for mortality;
In all it became, at the first count, two warm bodies in tribute to one cold, old picture.