This poem was published in The Poetry Review, winter issue, 2017.

Salisbury Prison, 31 December 1966

by O. Flote

extract from My Life as Robert Gabriel Mugabe by Comrade Diogenes Junk

The Settlers can give you your old life back, it is what they deal in – the past.
They are experts in subverting all other action to this single cause.
They are witches trading in the spells of the past. A past where they are witches
and manipulators of everything to their cause and benefit.

No, Nhamodzenyika, let me tell this to you now so there is no confusion.
I am not the Settlers’ slave consort. Their magic has no effect upon me,
riddles me no more. Long ago I gave up the tractable hopes of the naked haggler
for dignity. I restored my eyes to their purpose which is to see how things really are.

I am not weak, though I do suffer; I am not broken, though I ache so much,
so much it’s as if my soul were in fact a body dropped from an aeroplane,
a body which aches twice: first, during the fall in anticipation of death and thereby
experiencing death over and over again; and secondly, after the fall

just before the final death when every broken bone and burst vessel,
every crack in your skull and jaw sings with the pain your soul has already known.
This is the dual pain of imprisonment by those who despise you for being
exactly who you are, who you can only be: the pain of the fall.

But what the Settlers don’t know, what they cannot begin to understand,
is that I have every faith in the milliseconds of life I shall gain after I hit the ground
and shatter, just before I expel my last breath. It is during this tiny window of life
that I shall rise up and deal an emphatic blow for my people, for our liberation,

and so destroy the realm of the Settlers for an eternity. I am alive now
like never before, in that fraction of time just before death. (Thanks to you?)
And the lust and righteousness budded from this knowledge is what supplies me the strength
to write to you now, my son, and to endure what I am destined to become.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

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