haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2008, vol 4 no 3

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Nancy Loader



Somewhere

men and women walk down the red dirt road not touching apart from occasional men friends who hold each other's fingers loosely. in the market women sit beside one another on the ground selling identical pyramids of tomatoes for identical prices.

crimson and blue breasted finches switch through the air.

down the stairs in the basement they wash out used latex gloves and place them on the ground to dry. it's cool here and there is a silver glass mound in the centre of the room, women sitting round it picking, sorting and rinsing used needles and syringes, recycling. a small child waits his turn outside the operating theatre picking at his ulcer. he waves to me and i wave back. the flies are watching too. a cockroach scuttles across the concrete floor. today the single light bulb is working.

i hear the grunt of hippos in the dark, frogs croaking, the endless click of the bush. the night sky so clear that all the galaxies are rushing towards me.

in the mind numbing heat people walk by with firewood or sugar cane or maize stacked on their heads. leaves and twigs are strewn across the road telling of a funeral. seventeen cholera deaths today in this place near Nkoma Hill. in the maternity ward tiny babies breathe on in wooden boxes covered in muslin, incubators powered by a hot water bottle under each thin mattress.

killed sheep hangs in tree
entrails a delicacy
we accept a Coke.

the tobacco plants sway over my head. cigars drying in the sun. there are houses woven like giant baskets from straw, mud thrown on the walls, some have fallen apart in the rains, the restaurant owner welcomes us into his place and the straw roof collapses onto us at intervals. it doesn't worry him that we bring our own food to eat at the rough table because he has none to sell us.

and always brilliant multicoloured butterflies lift off the road.

grey chameleon
in purple jacaranda
time to change colour.

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