Somewhere To Here

London Heathrow
Zimbabwe Harare
Malawi Blantyre
To Chikwawa and Charles
We take a pillion bike ride
To turn-off right
Mozambiquen border
Not in sight
Stopping just short
Bush taxi has
Vibrated and thumped
Over corrugations
Past grass thatched
Mud hut villages
Women with branches
Heavy buckets
One just a single shoe
Atop their heads
Now there's no road
To continue with
Bridge washed away
Were met with two bicycles
So impressed am I
With African voice mail
Travels so sure
Fast and true

We pedal our bikes
Sided by thorny bushes
Barren blazing landscape
Then fjord a river
As I take off my shoes
They all laugh while
Pushing Charles across
Riding for hours
Turning onto bush bike tracks
Soaked with perspiration
That big heat ball
Burning me
Through my shirt
We reach a village
Dismount and
Sitting under a big
Shady tree
Chatting with the chief
Chichewa language and Charles
Until it passes that
The pan pipers
`Ngororombe' musicians and dancers
Are still five?
Perhaps two
Possibly ten kilometers
Away in this midday furnace
Leaving our bikes behind
Bearings conveyed
Its just we two
Joking and pausing
Whistling call and answers
Step after rhythmical step
Hands are burning
Lips run dry
Just wandering along
This barren bush track
We notice flame red beetles
Birds sheltering and squawking
Resting in shaded positions
Stopping to quench thirst
Eating banana
And peanut butter sandwich
Breathing in
That sweet parched air
Fragrented by a flower

It's like being in the Kimberley
Northern West Australia
There are boabs here too
Finally some smoke
Through the distant haze
Shelter and house appear
People planting
Maize with hope
In a hundred plus degrees
Bush silence
Another hill passes
Village life begins
With cries of amazement
Me to them
They to me
Children running
My disbelief
Along with theirs
At how they're living
People stop
Freeze and stare
My smile meets
Wide white beams
Of friendliness
Welcoming handshakes
"muri bwangi" to you
Giving all they have
As we sit
To a meal of nsima and egg
Fresh cool water
Carried all that way
On the heads of many
Women and children
With all the risks
I can only watch
As Charles guzzles
Thirst quenching litres

Big C and Bwana Peter
Strode into town
Shown to that shady tree
Meeting place of chiefs
The big one
And three others
Gathering hoards
The whole village
Dribbles in
Grubby children
In ragged clothing
Many malnourished
With curvaceous
Bloated stomachs
Women suckling babies
Wild cloth patterns
Vibrant colours
Scarves and cloth
Flashes of more smiles
Much laugher

We sit and tell
Why we've come
Me through Charles
He makes them laugh
And I trust him
Like my best friend
He takes his time
An hour passes
Then when the moment
Particulars of tradition
Respect and rest
Seems right
He delivers my story
Reasons to be
First white man
To pass this way
As hours pass
Dusk beckons
The haze turns orange
Then pink
Red then ablaze
A marimba appears
Along with the local madman
Who dances wildly
And encourages
Everyone to laugh
Drummers too
Playing for those old ladies
Clapping out
Those odd steps
Moves and shrill cries
Singing songs
In mesmerizing circles
Kicking the air
Full of dust
Greeting us individually
Kneeling before me
"zikoma kwam biri"
Hand reaches mine
Toothless worn smiles
Thick leathered hands
From days tilling soil
Hoping the rains
That are two months late
Will come indeed

It's a happening!
Six hundred eyes
Staring deeply
Blue eyes
White skin rare
It's finally agreed
That we have no time to retreat
Should stay the night
Stare at the stars
After the vast red
Sky draws its last breath
Fires now marking the sky
Eucalypt smells
I breathe in deep
Drift awhile
Inside my own life
This finest hour
Then play some mouthbow
For a few silent friends
Shapes in the darkness
I'm so completely happy
To be here

Now a mat appears
Bed for the night
But I'm concerned
And under prepared
For this overnight stay
Mosquito net left behind
Malaria such a threat
Laying sidebyside with Charles
African style
A true friend
Dreaming of tomorrow
When the pan pipers
Will play
And who knows what
Two teachers appear
Breaking in and out
Of English phrases
To gain my attention
A distant whistle blows
Children sing
Such beautiful harmony
Chorus of fun
Breaking down with laughter
I smile too
The darkness complete
A billion stars
So far away
From electricity
And now a quarter moon
Setting the mood
For tiredness to overrun
My senses overload
But then
As expected
The unexpected
Unusual voice
Cuts the air
Warning sinners
Of punishments
From the `rock' church
Preachers burning words
Cemented with an African choral sound
Full harmonic voice
Drums pounding
And stirring all
To clap and dance
Out another surprise
I leave my ground
Walk into the dark
Turn my head
To the sky
Closing my eyes
Listening and thanking
My lucky star
Watching over me
For this life
Just now
And here