Interregnum - L.S. Mensah

I knew exactly what you were going through. It's just that I didn't have the right to discuss your problems… hold on just a little bit longer now.
- Lucky Dube, Hold On

In the ruins of Great Zimbabwe [1], swallows
Return with mud. Mute – they make a million
Journeys to build their nests where mosses
Face true north. Brother Silence muzzled
Their tongues with mortis of rigor.

Between Zambezi and Limpopo, the past
And its appurtenances tattoo the plateau,
And Great Zimbabwe hugs her granites;
Each to the other, no need for mortar.
See, O see how she slopes to an almost cornice,
Apex of a gone civilization:

Belligerent – solemn – stoic –

Bivouacked against every minim
Of rain, every quaver of wind.
Some say her tonguelessness begun,
When strange footsteps strayed into her caves,
Forgetting to knock. Whatever the cause,

It unsettles. Who knows, who knows why the sun
Propagates the seer’s gaze with solar-pollen?
The palm wine tapper's calabash is not for the juice
Of coconuts, nor the divining bowl for hand dipping.

Even the River of Crocodiles limps with silt.
Tell me Limpopo, how did Brother Silence cast
His spell over your catchment? But the river elbows me:

I have work to do.
I'm only a middle-aged
River, shifting sandbanks
For my tenant sand martins.
Inquisitor, let me pass.

Who will bear the blame gourd when Great
Zimbabwe is jettisoned into history’s marginalia?

Perhaps a tour guide, a survivor, might
Bring his charges, point where the Great Enclosure once stood,
Where Mwari [2] once spoke, before the outbreak of non-sound.

Perhaps they’ll bask in the familiar comfort
Of old monuments; now and then catch a moment,
Now and then, with the contrails of their breath, cup the numb quiet.

Perhaps, they'll stare into its pools, as if the stare, when
Stretched to the thinness of sand strafing the gut
Of an hourglass, might unpick some mysterium, stitched
To the loin cloth of Great Zimbabwe's skeletons.

O, I wonder if they’ll wonder, whether old
Monuments, like words, possess their own
Etymologies, which untended, shed their clarities.

Let it not be said we hibernated in the bald
Shade of acacias, when our neighbours' fields
Caught fire, from renegade lightning storms.
May it not be mentioned we shared
Laughter-morsels with Brother Silence,
Even as he sharpened his sickle
Against his brother’s windpipe.

I am a stranger troubadour, from another
Corner of our savannah, who, having come
This far between rainbow and earth's paw,
Disembarked my tongue.

I must go now.
The peddler of parables should not
Hear the bearded owl’s ululation.

Let me go now.
This is a song with many voices.
Let someone hum the refrain.

[1] Great Zimbabwe is a complex of Iron Age ruins of a civilisation that flourished in modern day Zimbabwe, after which the country is named. The name Zimbabwe comes variously from the Shona words: dzimba woye (venerated houses) or dzimba dza mabwe (houses of stone).
[2] The Shona Creator God

"Interregnum" is part two of our five-part series of poems by Ghanaians on Zimbabwe. To read all contributions to the series so far, click here.


Unknown said...

This is the best poem I have read so far about lost identity. L S Mensah, as the troubadour, in 'Interregnum', passes by a great civilization and struggles to understand why 'Brother Silence' calls the shots.

The imagery is stunning, the mood is of consternation and consciousness of potential. The use of loaded language is a perfect reflection of the loaded significance of every edifice (man-made and natural) in Zimbabwe.

I like the knitting of words, the flow of ideas like 'the Limpopo'. The river-like effect of how cause and consequence do not wait for us to grasp their meanings.

Thank you, LS. I think this is your magnum opus. It is an instant classic!

Darko Antwi said...


Where poetry is meant to give ideas, L.S writes hers with a fountain of knowledge - and a kaleidoscope of wisdom.

When a poet is this talented, his/her efficiency is felt in every single word used, however numerous his/her lines may be. On the other hand, mediocre poets are most often handicapped by a dysfunctional line or two.

A poet like L.S is a fairly good example (if specimen offends) to substantiate my thesis which goes: 'some poets have pure poetry blood from birth - while others, by fortune or accident, had it seeped into their veins through transfusion.

I'm sorry we can't bear the cost to mount 'Interregnum' on Harare billboards. It's not the poet's will anyawy. However impossible, I hope that someday somewhere L.S will receive a posthumus honour from the state for whom she writes this grandeur of adoration.

It could be her magnum opus, I think the same. Maybe her opus magnum. Who knows!

Wont be seen here for a while. On holiday. See you, friends.