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
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
I do not own this image.
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
It is the 8th of May, 2008. I have just walked through the door and begin to tip toe through the house so I don’t wake my mother up. She has been very worried about my late nights with my German, Australian and Japanese friends throughout the suburbs of Khumalo and Hillside. It is the height of pre- election violence in Zimbabwe. Only a few days ago a young man was kicked in the chest by militia until he was coughing up globules of blood. His crime? Not carrying a form of positive identification or a piece card that shows which political party he follows. Yes, I was there. I was with a friend on George Silundika Avenue near Glens Removals when the young man skidded past us and fell onto the tarmac about two metres from where we stood talking. Not a moment later there was a thundering of army boots and booming voices shouting violently as they descended on the unarmed, helpless man. I dare not tell you the state he was in when they lifted his near dead body and took it around the corner. As we were trying to take all this in, the guy in charge, not more than 30 years old, walked straight to me as though he would smooch me and asked me for ID. I groped the back pocket of my Levis and felt my passport there. I sighed. They did the same with my friend. We were both safe. He told us to run home and not look back. We did just that.
Fast forward back to this day…
So I am tip toeing through my mother’s kitchen. I have locked the door behind me and am about to get into bed when the phone rings… It is the loudest damn phone I have ever heard. I rush to it and pick it up by the 3rd ring. “Hello!”, says a raspy, tobacco beaten voice on the other end of the line. “Is that Frank?”. I pause, squint my eyes a little as if that will help me recognise this unfamiliar voice. “Yes. It is”. I am not sure if this is one of my friends playing a prank or a genuine call, so I listen. “We know who you are and what you have been doing”. “Who is this?”. The concern in my voice cannot mask the fear that is sprinting up and down my spine. “We are your friends that are trying not to hurt you unless you give us cause to”. “We know about your interview. We are giving you a grace period of 7 days to leave this country before we come to get you or burn your house down with you in it!”
It was the police. They had found footage for an interview I had given to a French TV channel where I openly stated my sexual orientation and thoughts on where I felt the country was going under the president’s rule. The filmmakers had been caught and footage confiscated and watched. I was an easy target, seeing I was a lead actor in a Zimbabwean TV series at the time. I had to make a wise decision that would not endanger my loved ones. So I left. It took 10 heavy days to apply for a South African Visa, book a flight and get out.
I left the country unscathed. The fact remains though, that threats and intimidation were used to make me feel a lesser human being and that my life meant little. And also that I was terrified enough of what might happen to me behind closed doors as an out gay man in a country that does not to this day recognize gay people as human and continues to deny equal rights to LGBTI citizens. So now, I speak for those that might never be afforded the space and time to utter a word that might bring them to be accepted in society. Not just in Zimbabwe, but all over our beautiful continent and beyond.
Happy place. Comfort space. Gentle embrace. Illuminant face.
Unnamed, unproclaimed authenticity of feelings brand the soul
With amber copper-red rays that pluck the heart like a bass string.
Autumn leaves strewn at my feet are ending beginnings that mulch
Sprouting metaphors of renewed purpose and worth.
Time is golden thread weaving through requited affirmation that teems
With a sense of belonging.
Eyes glistening with intensity of power that reigns me into safety of your gaze.
Heartbeat that speaks in soothing, calming Morse to my soul and being.
Happy place. Comfort space. Gentle embrace. Illuminant face. Kiss me in true grace.
Frank Malaba ©2016
Hearts are marionettes with porcelain faces. Feelings are puppet strings that break and drop the porcelain to the ground. Love is the glue that mends the imperfect porcelain to its scarred former self. Yet through this, the marionettes put on a magnificent show. Our insatiable souls scream for an encore at every turn. The show MUST go on.
Frank Malaba ©2016
In my motherland, gay people are worth a pile of dry leaves. Their heads are cracked open like water melons and their hair thrown everywhere like steamers and confetti. Their voices are drowned by the crows that pluck their eyes out for breakfast while good people do nothing. Kings order death and destruction upon them like pawns on an incomplete chess board. I am of that branch but alien to the tree. I know for certain that my fruit is worth much and can sweeten the sour taste that many have come to know. I am off that tree but not of the ground it bestrides. I am love untarnished.