Frank Bana

Botswana Suite - Poem by Frank Bana

In the Village: Motsumi's Advice

If you have only one place to see
Make sure it's the village of Mochudi
Where thatched and metal-tipped houses peek
Over the rocks and around the hills
And the old road now is nicely paved
To the hospital and meeting place
Where Chief Linchwe's dynasty holds sway
And men and women debate all day

From the cross of the great North Road
Where leatherworks and undertakers thrive
Mochudi seems to sparkle in the sun
And village life remains alive
Children stroll home in uniform
From school in the falling afternoon
Little groups of three and four
No-one seems to walk alone

I know that things are different now
You might not even glimpse a cow
You could check the Capital instead
The ministries and discoteques
The Kalahari Typing School
Famed by Alexander Smith McCall.
Who know what was built while I was away?
Perhaps an air-conditioned mall?

Some praise the Chobe's forests and parks
The gushing splendour of Victoria Falls
And I won't deny the wonders of
The endless desertlike expanse
Where horizons are caught only by those
Who dance themselves into a trance.

But I'd urge you to foresake all these
And look out from the vantages
Of the rocks behind Mochudi museum
The house of a small tribe's history
And glance beneath, as the women greet
On the pathways, men head for the bars
Walking slowly in the evening sun
As if the day had just begun.

Motsumi brings you good advice
In case you may not visit twice.

First Time on the Trail

Northward from the village fires
Crossing the Capricorn
Become a good receptacle
For sight and smell

'Welcome to Serowe' - white stones on a hill
The elders guarding Khama's bones
Sit in council as we eat
At the cooperative hotel

The truck passes Seretse's kraal
Narrow trails to where his men
Were brought from Nata to the north
To guard his cattle pen

Counting by fists that fall on palms
Through interpreters we understand
Totems that are indigenous
Eagle and eland

At compounds we're invited to
Exchange of gift begins
Salt and tea, a shirt maybe
A calf felled yesterday

Dust curls snake-like from the wheels
Shrub is swallowed by the sun
Cobra-spit of danger flies
Behind the wheels that run

Storm and silent lightning play
On spectral shades within
Answering to desert song
The Kalahari rainbows sing

Last camp is cleared and wood is burned
Fire and moon reflect on skin
Hyenas bay as the hours pause
Breathless before dawn begins

And swarms of yellow butterflies
Play below the Capricorn
As we leave the desert trail
For our village home.

Home for the Weekend

Peace lies in the villages
Last night we slept in the heart of change
The rain a heavy paintbrush
Filled with hidden green
Dripped on every root and stem
As we like broken pillars dreamed.

The crimson-bellied clouds
The messenger of butterflies
The spirit of the darting lizard
The feet of morning stealing by
Regiments dance in heavy white boots
Lanterns are hung as you arrive.

The earth is softened, rivers
Eat the roads, the stems are suckling
From the well, the running child
Hungers and grows
And is waiting at our gate. Come near,
Tla kwano, I used to call
Until the child came.

A place like home, even before
Motsumi was my name.

1977 - 2007

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Poem Submitted: Monday, February 3, 2014

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