P o e m s /
M u z a n e n h a m o & W a t e r m a n
Togara Muzanenhamo and Rory Waterman
We are turning into ghosts here. The days mirror each other. Silence sits flat like a stone on the horizon. Muting everything. The house is cold and dark and quiet as a cave. My daughter wakes up much later than usual. And as I am seated, writing this to you, she’s still in bed – her body clock adjusted three weeks back. After schools closed, she was so happy to be free from the early morning rush – dressing as she ate breakfast, the neighbours’ dogs barking and cars revving and speeding out of wrought iron gates, traffic flooding streets as the sun cast its eye through the kitchen window where my wife would shout For Christ’s sake we’re going to be late. Faucets running. Keys lost then found. Doors slamming. The general chaos of leaving.
All these things my daughter now comments on with a hint of regret. Though she’s happy to go to bed late and wake up late – though she’s adjusted to the quiet – there’s just one complaint that constantly drags at her heels like an invisible weight. Eight year olds, she insists, should get out and play with their friends. She’s also beginning to tire of asking when all of this will end.
I leave for my mother’s, fleet through ghost suburbs and into my plotted and pieced homeland. And, yes, ‘When will this end?’ she says, gesturing a happy hug across her yard. Then ‘Let’s go!’ and I follow her command, her boots, round the fields, the bends in countless hedges, on a route she’s treaded daily, from budding hawthorn to bulging haws, stopping to ‘gosh!’ at anything that moves, or to lift her binoculars, often frantically missing whatever it was: a kestrel trembling on cloud, a green woodpecker fanning back to the copse. She wants to show me something. This is why I am here: love without touch, to risk her health for our health . The hay is baled, our calves pimpled with burdock burrs. And, worlds away, riots have broken out again, I tell her,
slipping my bastard phone away, sorry , as silently we decide not to navigate what we think, even for one another. We’re on the edge of the woods now, near a stable, derelict beside a brick-strewn, dimpled lawn that was a country house. ‘Not far’ she says, proud, then grabs for my hand as she misjudges a style, retracts in a blink, tumbles hard to the mud.
Driven by necessity, we pack up and head out to the farm. The road’s a wide ribbon of tar with a cautious stream of cars. Silence still reigns. The morning sun falls across my forearm. The passenger seat is empty, my daughter in the back, her tears long dried after refusing to wear the mask – eyes fixed to the screen of her tablet. In a calm voice, she says she’s never seen