• Lorraine Johnson

[18] Where The Richness Lies

Today the rain has fallen

Upon the soil of a very kind man

A small round house, alone, rests on his machamba*

Long reeds cling to the earthen walls

And the roof of thatch—

which the rays of the sun softly pass through

—forms a point reaching towards the sky.

The pot of greens sits on the fire

A steady boil lingers in its water

The rice already has expanded—

when the rains began to call again.


We make our way inside the round hut—

each carrying something,

contributing to the run

One chair there was—meticulously wiped

and offered to me

I sit

The rain falls more and I'm driven to the floor

to sit on the earthly mat—

it's where I always wanted to be.


And as the rain increased

The dry space became less and less

The old man had sheets of plastic—small pieces,

And we spread them on top of what we could

to protect the little that he possessed

There were nine of us and one old woman, who—

in her drunken state—danced.

Yes she danced. Sang—yes she sang,

outside the hut—as a vision outside our door.

As the rain fell.

The food still hot—we ate—

and the old woman danced,

and the old woman sang.


She left. Came back.

First with a large paw paw, which she offered to me.

She kept caressing her hair—brushing it back with both hands out flat —

she was trying to tell me something.

She was trying to tell me that her mother was white or her father—one of them,

"Can't you see my hair?"


She spoke in Xishangaan

She spoke in Portuguese


And then the old man told me her story

Her husband died, and from that time

she felt lost, but free

And thus began to drink—

no longer working hard on her machamba

as the past had found her.


And she danced—and the old man he watched

—he was enjoying but tried not to show.

Then suddenly he would smile, laugh a little. I would join him.

Then she left again—out into the rain

We remained huddling under the straw strands

of the roof's circular form,

and then she returned without much time

and placed a bunch of ripe bananas

on the ground outside the door

For me—she said

I joined her outside

Obrigada! Obrigada! Senhora

She danced—she was happy

As I

I returned to the shelter of the old man's home,

and shared the ripe bananas.


The rain stopped—we stepped outside.

The freshness filled the spaces, and the earth lay rich

—as the man.


Yes the rain has fallen

And we know peace has come.


* machamba meaning "farm" in Xishangaan