Bruce Zondiwe MbanoMalawiWriting2005
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UNESCO-Aschberg Fellow

THE BREADWINNER


On Juma, Friday, the day of worship
The muezzin calls from the minaret.

After worship, the faithful extend alms
To the poor, a pile of coins to pick from.

Shop after shop, barefoot, in October heat,
Panting, for the load on her back is not light;

The baby strapped, except for withered legs,
Has heavy pectorals; and fully bearded

Booms to her ears: how she must walk,
Where she must go, what she must buy…

Now the sun points home, she adjust him
And straps the day’s buy within his reach

For his restless hands, within their locus,
Must solace themselves anywhere, any time.

Now trudging home, stops to greet someone
(For even a donkey acknowledges a friend):

A heavy slap from the right hand, she sees
Stars, totters; then the command: Forward!

She moves: slaps are a tonic for the family
And a man’s love is wrapped in jealousy

But it was only Nagama, she later explains;
And the voice: what about that man with her?

Romantic exchanges to entertain themselves
For the long walk to their children, waiting


Civitella Ranieri, Italy 2005