From the field, you could see the man

as a splotch of colour, hands fanning air

to reach a bleating beast; yellow eyes patched

with wildness. How to recognise the shape

of what would hold you before slaughter?

This was God’s country. The man’s face

was bone white and kind only to what could be hurt

without protest, like the goat’s head bowed

to severance, surrender; brown horns

like dirty bone left to sun. Even what breathed

resembled death. Even the goat traced 

the shape of its own dying without knowing;

continued crying as its hooves pressed misshapen 

moons into the dirt, or perfectly shaped tears.

From a field, a goat’s cry sounds like the shadow

of a black man’s shriek. In other repeated worlds, black

men pressed thumbs into dirt, handled

tobacco stems with a softness not ceded to them.

This was God’s country. The man you could see

from the field flicked a blade. Gush.


All the poems l write you gaze out to the plain 

of thistles, thick stretches of shrubs bunched like mushrooms,

black cow burnt last week in wildfire—consequence of wandering

too far from what yields your head to plough. We don’t 

speak of the harshness of this land enough. You say the rain

comes with the smell of wet dust and scoured earth, absence

of my mouth inside the hollow of yours, but for days

I’ve driven silver disks into red soil, felt the soft give

of easy surrender like it was my own. Desire sings

far and absent like a new moon over pastures l own

without knowing. I think of you crouched over

a dirty sink – bleached hands, future mildew

peeling back to meet you – and it breaks me.

Each morning; white mist like ghosts blown apart,

goats’ bleats skewing me from a skinless dream.

I wish to sleep well, l wish to sleep well. I miss

each sunset hanging sickles and axes in an orange-lit

barn that gleams cleaner than my body. I think of nothing 

as weapons, only tools, only things to knead the land

until its stitch marks run unnoticed. I wish to love you

minus the landscape. I wish to run on unclaimed.


What I’ve summed up as my past fits into my hands 

like a fistful of mulch, slick with what it prevents— 

erosion. No one sees my naked back through cracks 

in the undergrowth lush with the orange light of evening, 

ending. I am not close to ending, yet, but I listen 

for what speaks to me without voice; violence; 

God; the gaping mystery of what history did not clothe 

into story—the small day of a man’s life marked 

by a cruelty so thin he could not rub it between 

finger and thumb to crush its grain. I touch the rough,

exposed root of a tree. A girl I once loved told me 

each root remembered the shape of what once stood 

atop it; residual shadow. I did not understand this. 

My love did not come with understanding. Now, 

I imagine lightning cracks, shuffle of boys’ feet 

looking for shade. goat’s blood pooled into an uneven 

pond of red, hung body swinging into afterlife. 

I imagine each forgotten distance blown into clarity.

Through slats of sunlight breaking through trees, my body 

is only half-lit. half understood, halfway in the path 

it burns towards Heaven.


Photo by John Bakator on Unsplash

Farai Chaka

Farai Chaka is a writer from Harare, Zimbabwe. His work has been published in The Shore, Surging Tide, Isele and Aster Lit, amongst other places. He enjoys sitcoms and music.