Two Poems

Poetry / Myron Michael

:: Our Bodies Are Meant to Cross the Line that Draws Breath from Us ::

          (upenyeru kufema tanise)

Shona, Shona, Shona, Shona, Shona. 
I call on it as if it is a woman,    

phonemes and parable: but watch the lover 
pack his bags then drown in a river   

while he tries to cross it carrying everything  
that was in his house. “Put down your things and this way,”   

disciples say with gospel up their sleeves.  
“From thy parents to thy wife,” the Lord agrees   

looking toward godly vengeance
through his holy and hole-punctured sacrament.  

The lover concedes; and she, one thing at a time, 
removes weight from his corpulent tongue.


:: Listening to Oliver Mtukudzi at Leisure ::

He can’t fly off the cusp with rugged syllables, 
bv, dy, and r: his palate catches like carpet under nail.  

“It’ll get easier,” she shrugs, drying a plate with napkin. 
“Waswera sei?” His day was a swollen knuckle of negritude

that he beat out on a counter—at times music is all he feels. 
A new entry entered the glossary of his learning  

:zvakanaka. Which means “alright,” but has the “almost 
there” quality of determination: a man determined to move  

from one platform to another with a suitcase of sounds 
noted for their high or low tonalities that mean one thing   

or similar. When listening to elders, or recalling great nations, 
or addressing heirs who kept breathing over all that ocean,  

I fold my hands and offer gratitude, as Tuku 
and the Black Spirits make a metronome for their feet.


Michael, creation myth (1)

"Key of Life"



From the writer

:: Account ::

I was listening to Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi while reading essays written by Octavio Paz, The Double Flame: Love and Eroticism, which pointed me to Plato’s The Symposium. From The Symposium I took the concept “the path of absolute beauty” to reference as a framework for a heptalogy in progress titled The Plentiful and Readymade World. The poems that make up my submission are from book two of that heptalogy, When a Snake Swallows the Moon, a collection of walking poems about love and mythology inspired by the title of Peter Godwin’s book When a Crocodile Eats the Sun.

I heard Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi for the first time in graduate school. My ex-girlfriend introduced me to him through his album Paivepo (Once Upon a Time). After hearing him sing “Pindurai Mambo,” which is a song that questions why life is prosperous for some but impoverished for others—and because I love the musicality of consonant sounds, and Shona is a language composed mostly of consonant clusters—I decided to acquire the language; my ex-girlfriend who is Zimbabwean and speaks Shona was a valuable resource to have close. Before I wrote the poems that make up my submission, I bought a Shona-English dictionary; though Shona is primarily spoken in Zimbabwe by Zimbabweans, to my delight I found one online. Though the narrative of the poems is about a relationship that ended a decade ago and progresses through the telling of a creation myth, the memory of the relationship lives on, and so every time I study the dictionary, I am made nostalgic by remembrance of it. But soon after, I am made content by the growth of my vocabulary for I hope to speak Shona fluently, and every lesson brings me one step closer to acquiring the language.


Myron Michael’s poetry is anthologized in Days I Moved through Ordinary Sounds and Another & Another, appears in print at Toad Suck Review, and appears online at Outside in Literary & Travel Magazine and Rivet. He collaborated with Broadside Attractions/Vanquished Terrains for the text + image installation “Vertical Horizon” (2012) and Microclimate Collective for the exhibition “X Libris” (2012), and he is a 2015 Best New Poets and Pushcart Prize nominee.