Broken Pathways

​Broken wings sewn onto broken hearts with broken thread.
Broken spirits whip souls of broken girls fighting to keep virginities unbroken.
Broken, broken men afraid to love their own fragility break wings off butterflies
In a ballet student boy’s tummy as he learns to pirouette into the future of silent
Musical repertoires played to merciless critics that brandish pitchforks and burning tar.
Broken dreams weave safety nets for hatched ideas that will be nurtured by hopeful dreamers.

We are all breaking. Breaking away. Breaking bread. Breaking bones. Breaking souls. Breaking silence.
Voices breaking. Taking a break.

Photo: Ian Kreigler 

Frank Malaba © 2016

Coming Home

Trees. Trees. More trees… Cotton fields… Sunflower fields…

Trees interspersed with cotton fields and sunflower fields

Carousel past my train window at the speed of tumbleweeds

Before a hurricane.

My eyes play tag with the giant red anthills in the horizon that

Tower over the fields like vacant lighthouses on dead beaches.

Billows of black smoke cartwheeling through the skies canvas what is left of

The blue.

 

Vultures are stripping what is left of an elephant carcass while wrestling off

Hyena cubs in fields of rotting, unripened watermelons.

We stop on the edge of the dry savanna and are greeted in the distance by

Gigantically monstrous, cumulonimbus clouds that threaten to crack open like

Hatching eggs above the scorching dryness that is thirsting for a quench.

Slowly, the train begins to pull away from the arid stop and rhythmic melodies

Of the globules of cool rain begin a wet symphony on the tin roof of the tired train

As it Tshongololos its way past the kopjes that are steaming up from the raindrops.

 

I am home. This scent of cooling, half-baked mud and the glistening skirts of the acacia trees

Hypnotise me back into the reality of the meaning of ‘home’.

My grandmother’s clay painted hut is in the distance and I can hear the bellowing cows and

Bleating goats.

Why do I ever leave, only to be reminded of the priceless value of the constants that connect me to this soil that seeps me back in every time I return…

Home.

 

Frank Malaba © 2016

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photo credit: Camp Amalinda Website

​THROUGH MY AFRICAN EYES- World AIDS Day

On my continent, EVERYONE is either infected or affected by HIV. There isn’t a quarter of an hour that goes by without an HIV/ AIDS public service announcement on state sponsored media. We are all encouraged by the media to get tested periodically and not to be afraid of this virus.
I was 16, in 1998, when I became witness to AIDS for the first time in my family. My father, who had been very absent from my life, finally made himself available after years of serving in the military in what was Yugoslavia at the time, and numerous other countries, as a peace keeper.
As you might know, 16 is the age that most males of any culture or background are confronted with the threshold of imminent manhood. It turned out at that age, that I was not only dealing with my ever-changing and raging hormones, but my latent homosexuality as well. I knew that I was not going through a phase.
I needed my dad to tell me everything would be fine and that I was not a freak. In order to achieve this and be at peace with who I am and what I was going through, I would have to travel 558 kilometres from Bulawayo to Mutare (where he lived) by bus. After days of agonising, I finally took the plunge and booked that bus ticket and made my way to the only man who would understand me.
When I arrived at his flat, I could not believe the reality that I was confronted with. The man who had been so powerful, who trained martial arts students and was the strongest man I knew, now had discoloured skin and massive boils under his armpits. He looked so vulnerable, had lost most of his body weight and spoke in a very soft semi-whisper.
I did not know how to relate to him. He was so different to the man I had come to see and who I had the intention of confiding in. It seemed he had bigger things to deal with than my battle with sexual desire for men and jangling hormones.
In 1998, Zimbabwe was ill-prepared to deal with the reality of the HIV pandemic and people were not helping themselves either. They blamed a lot of the deaths on witchcraft and jealous relatives who were intent on killing their more successful rivals. I saw it all.
What hurt the most was that I could not do much to make a difference. My Ndebele culture did not allow me, as a young person, to speak out about sex. It still is taboo to speak about it, but things are slowly changing with the introduction of the ever-evolving and growing global village.
My father died on the 25th of June 1998. It is not fair to say he only died of AIDS, but that my people’s fear and denial in the face of attempted education killed him as well. Had he been exposed to ARV treatment and support groups, he would be sharing in my life right now. Thank goodness my mother never contracted it as they were divorced by then.

I guess HIV becomes more real when it knocks on our doorstep and attempts to befriend us or become a part of our family. It is here to teach us how to live anew. It brings a dawn of a new birth and a more conscious existence, both for the infected and the affected. Let us do this together and educate, console, love and embrace all who are affected and infected.

-Frank Malaba

Boys, Shame, Fault 

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.

I am 9 years old and clearing the table of messy plates after dinner with mom, dad and “uncle”. We’ve just said bye to mom and dad as they left for the music concert that begins in 30 minutes. “Uncle” is left to babysit me for the night. We will make popcorn in sunflower oil. Tonight he will let me salt it because I am a good boy and will not put too much salt in it. He will also not tell mom that he let me use the salt cellar. We want to clear the table, make popcorn and sit in front of the black and white TV screen to watch “Enter the Dragon” before it begins at 21h30. We manage all this in time. Even the salting of popcorn under his supervisory eye and the gentle grip of my wrist to make sure I do not make a mess of this delicate process.
We sit on the couch. There’s a blanket. There’s a cold, unfamiliar hand… a forceful, uncaring, grating and unzipping hand. There’s a tear of frenulum. I catch Bruce Lee in the corner of my eye. He can’t save me. “Uncle” is too strong. All. This. Blood.
On my favourite shorts with a coin pocket and a hole in them. “Go and clean yourself! “. “You should be careful with your zip!”.

The bathroom light is too bright. I want darkness. It must swallow me whole. The water in the sink is crystal clear and pure before I cloudy it up with Dettol. The white cotton wool almost disappears in the tainted water. I fish it out. My. Broken. Frenulum. The sting. The fear that grips me when I dip back the cotton ball in the water and it turns a pink lemonade colour.

I remember it all. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. Ask my favourite shorts. They’re buried under the mango trees in the orchard. Where childhood dreams sway like savannah grass on a breezy day, waiting to be claimed by the boy who grew up too soon and lived in fear of shame. I have to find those dreams and tell them that I didn’t know better. And that we cannot reunite, because I can’t find the boy. He sunk into the television rays that night. Looking for Bruce Lee.

Frank Malaba © 2016

​35 seconds… Crossroads

She’s fixing the smudge of red on her lip that she just picked up in the rear view mirror as she checked if it was safe to throw the lukewarm dregs of leftover coffee in the paper cup out of the passenger side of her car into the bin on the corner of the street where the homeless man is searching for a leftover snack while he traps the louse that is stuck between the sweet spot between his sweaty testicle and waxy thigh that is recovering from a kick that the glue sniffing street kids gave him after calling him names when he scared off the pretty tourist in a flowing linen dress that looked like she could have given them a R50 note that was sticking out of the purse that she forgot to close after buying fresh pressed beetroot and lemon juice from the vegan store owner who just kissed his girlfriend goodbye on her way to her daily yoga class and accidentally smudged her red lipstick. I guess I can go now, the traffic light just turned green for me.

Frank Malaba © 2016

How not to kill the depressed…

You’re walking through a very long tunnel. Or maybe wading through this tunnel. Because walking can be easy. This movement is not. So… You are wading through this tunnel but you don’t know how you got there. It feels as though you fell asleep and you woke up in the tunnel. It is full of viscous oil and mud. You are lower lip deep in this muck. You don’t know how got here, but here you are. You’re trying to run so you can at least see where the light at the end of the tunnel is. At this point, you will even appreciate the light of an oncoming bullet train at high speed.

Think of the times you have found yourself jump up out of a crazy nightmare and you wake up and everything is back to normality. In this nightmare, you are already awake but it feels like you should be waking up. Claustrophobic, debilitating, loud, drowning, painful, silent, lonely, hurting, fear, sadness, invisible… All wrapped up into one emotion. Then comes the well-meaning question, “How are you today?” – And you want to run and hide, because if you say, “I’m fine”- You’re doing yourself a disservice and you sink deeper into the dark tunnel of viscous, oily-muddy-muck. This is just one out of millions of feelings of what depression does to a human spirit. This is my own interpretation. You ask someone else to tell you theirs and it is different. We all deal with it in different ways. We will tell you how to help us get to the end of the tunnel where the bright sun is. Don’t be the train that bulldozes us with questions and well-meaning comments of how we should get it together. It is not your place. Your place is a seat at the table of learning how to be compassionate without judgment and having all the answers. You will kill us and come and mourn at our funerals.

Frank Malaba © 2016

frank-blogI do not own this image.

Hearts, Breaths & Syllables 

​Let us not die before we live.

Let us not fear pain that sometimes bridles passion.

The girths of our hearts are emblazoned with scars that will never heal but grow us.

We are tenacious in our weakness in a world that has loved us little and yet we have given our very souls to exist in it.

I am afraid to lose grip of your hand when you push me away. I never want to let go. I never want to have to let go.

Let me stay, now that I have found you.

You are the brightness of my every moment.

You have my every breath in a glass jar like fireflies that light up a crisp-cold room on an autumn evening.

Cup my face in your rough hands and tell me that I will never walk alone.

I will believe every syllable.
Frank Malaba © 2015