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.