(Bulawayo, Zimbabwe 1992)
birds echoed into the empty outside—
their strange language never stopped.
We hadn't asked why my brother, sister,
and I were sent home from school early.
The living room was dark when we came in.
Blinds closed, small slants of light
played in intervals on the wood-grain floor.
My father knelt, his hands folded
against his forehead, his eyes just opening
from a plea to God I couldn’t fathom.
The call had come a few hours before—
my grandmother’s body thousands of miles away,
paling within a hospital bed in Memphis.
My grandfather said to his son, She’s gone.
We knew it when my father stood
slowly, his knees weak from prayer.
His arms opening to us,
we knew that pain had no distance.