Pulling Legs Off Flies

When I was six I was caught pulling the legs off flies.
I had made a miniature operating table from soggy wood
and tin foil. My theatre room doubling as the pantry. 

Barefoot. The frames of my toenails plastered in sticky mud.
I was prone to shakes you see and stiffness always gave me balance.
But not today. Skirt blaring. Each foot firm in its occupation.

In the next room Father’s limp wrist dangled over the armchair.
Damp puddle manifesting; he was no stranger to drunken spills
on mother’s expensive rugs. He’d always say sometimes scout,

a man’s gotta play the villain. I paused my operation. Tooled down.
Left a fly with only half a wing pinned into the bed of foil. Tittered away. 
Grabbed a cloth to mop away his sins before mother’s words numbed me

in my tracks. They went to the effect of his mess, let him die in it.
She begged the parameters of my new-found profession. I managed a smile
that conveyed my warmth for her and somehow told her to mind her own.


I saw my father for the first time in years. Smile wide. As short
as I remembered. Arms burly like home. He told me the sun is a rock

and the moon is made of earth  but I knew all his lies. Smelt them
like I scout fires in the hollow of corrupt trees. His dithyrambic

was nothing more than a misplaced sense of wisdom and just like that
my shoulders lightened. I fixed myself up then journeyed back to open eyes.

Murungu [shona]

My husband is fascinated.
He has all these questions for me.

Why does your skin crackle at night? Every time you bathe it in water
it doesn’t survive. Your hair is so tight. We met back in oh five
it’s barely grown two inches since. When you walk, an echo emits
from your thighs. Remember Mauritius? The honeymoon. You stood
at the foot of the bed and slid out of your satin dress. First
we made love then you folded your bare skin into me. I held you
tight. Shed a tear at the thought of the monster who clawed
at your hips. Torched your elbows. Burned your knees. Sometimes,
when I’m sure you’re fast asleep, I crawl under the duvet and lather
your knees in lotion. Still, that stubborn tang of burning persists.

With every new question I grew convinced my husband was afraid
of me. But now it seems he just married me out of pity.

Night Rise

I grew up certain of the fact that with you
stars in perpetuum would come alive at the rise
of night. That we’d lay staring at ceilings white.
Dulled white. The kind that carries no life.
But at the shut of light, as your hand searches
for mine, the ceilings would part. Fracturing
into a thousand phosphorescent flies. Flitting
around us in worship.                 It’s two singles now.
Although the room is plenty. I dreamt of more for us.
I would have spent the rest of my days counting stars
with you. My love, we may have faded but rest assured
that those precious seconds at eventide (before you turn
onto your good side) as your right hand holds onto mine
have grown to be my favourite seconds
of any and every night.

Mother Taught Me

She woke me early one morning.
I remember it odd because well
mother was never one for sleep
but the rest of us made the most
of a Saturday morning.

It must have been six am.
She yanked me from my bed.
Shoved me into her closet. Left
the door slightly ajar. I knelt
in dark silence and waited.

Poised, she sat front and centre
at her vanity. Her hair had been
falling out for quite some time now.
Moments later she slid out of her
dressing gown (the la perla underneath

twinkled in the early morning)
then she slipped into the crushed
velvet Saint Laurent which hung
from the bathroom door all night.
Eyes dead in the mirror -her back

to my father- her chin grazed
her shoulder. A gentle whisper
summoned him from his slumber.
Eyes barely working, he graced
towards her. Cradled her hips.

He didn’t say a word. Mother gathered
the locks of her wig. Pushed them aside
as he zipped up her dress. He nestled
his face into the crook of her neck.
She faltered as he slid the wig off her head.

Eyes closed, his hands then travelled
through each tiny island on her crushed
velvet frame. He knew her. Knew her
like he built her. The morning after
she sat me down. Asked what I had learnt.

You’re beautiful? No my dear, she replied.
There is not a thing more romantic
than the sound of a woman’s dress
being zipped up morning after morning
by the man she loves. The same man
she folds her bare skin into night after night.

The Crystals

My husband hit me one summer and it felt like a kiss.

We flew for the first time in ’62. Business. A layer
of skin melted away as we stepped off the plane, the bitter
Arabian sun smacking our cheeks. My skin shone in ways
it had never shone before. I was to keep myself occupied
all afternoon but the way those olive men struggled around me.
It was as though my breasts were laced in mercury.

I made an appointment at the beauty parlour. Arranged to meet
my husband at dinner. They did me up real good. At seven pm
I watched from the balcony of our room as he took a seat at the bar.
For all her failings my mother taught me one important lesson: a woman
must always make an entrance. At seven o’five the waiter escorted me
to my table. The olive men fawned as I glided through the hot evening.

They dropped to my ankles like flies. My dress glistened but only
for him. When I reached the table my husband wiped the side of his lip,
measurably placed his napkin on the table, stood to his feet and with the rough
of his palm kissed me like I had never been kissed before. I felt nineteen again –
untouched and desperate for more.

Lavender Haze

I booked myself into the same hotel. For a moment I’m sure I smell you.
Not your cologne. The flesh of you. The skin on your back, that night,
felt brand new. We had crossed the intersection. I don’t recall stopping
but the tall city stars arched over us. You leaned in and the prayers

inside my head felt answered. It was like you had snuffed out the life
of the city and buried it in your eyes. My lips twinkled for you.
Your hand glided from the back of my neck – down into the ridge
worshipping my spine. I was ready to become a contortionist for you.

My only wish is that I knew how to talk to you. I had all these things
twinging on the tip of my tongue like my dad passed away too!
but before I could utter the words it was six am and the deed was done.