Dedicated to nana in memory of her late brother Patrick
Had I not gone home, I wouldn’t have seen you, But that I’ve left home, I won’t ever see you. That summer was your last, This winter took your breath, And where you’ve gone, I cannot visit, lest I, too, lose my breath. It’s crazy how time winds you up In our minds video player, Tugging the tape over and over, Until it frizzles out of place How did you laugh, What made you smile, How did you sound, What was it you’d always say? I fear forgetting All too many moments taken for granted: Your jar full of sweets, your jarred way of speech, And the walking stick you’d lug around. Now the only sweets in the jar Are sugar-coated memories Of how you’d walk and talk And carry that walking stick On Christmas and Easter When the whole family came over. You’d wave us in for a reunion, As we now wave you off in your departure. *** It seemed like yesterday that We were grandchildren, Sitting at back of your bucky En route to Kopong* or Metsimotlhaba*. We’d pull faces at strangers, Yelling masipa* at bad drivers. Our bad manners were undercover Thanks to the dust of our dirt roads. You’d give us fresh milk from your cows In old sprite bottles, tinting and tainting The taste of sweet fresh milk, Now sour with nostalgia. I miss it. But what are my memories other than Wasted words of time forsaken. Your children and sister mourn A shoulder they can no longer cry on. Rest in peace as we toss these ashes into the air. Go be the wind. Passing with ease, not heeding our worries, For your pains must die with death, I say. Leave your grief in the grave for us, Our sorrow shall water each regret, Until you sprout in the smile of a grandchild, For blood roots a family to a tree, And fallen branches always regrow. I foresee it, the offshoot, the namesake, not by name but by manner. So I won’t be sad forever. The past shall return in the newborn with different eyes, I’ll greet your likeness. “Where have you been all these years?” “What do you mean? I’ve been here the whole time!” The child would look strangely at me, and I’d just say: “You just remind me so much of your great uncle.”
Kopong is a village in Botswana, in the Kweneng District.
Metsimotlhaba is another a village in the Kweneng District.
Masipa is a Setswana cuss word, the equivalent to ‘shit’.