Mvua

It rains through the afternoon. We sit on the cool cement by the doorframe and watch the banana trees sway and heave in the storm. The children are caught in the gazebo and scream in the wake of the thunder. Life halts on shamba.

After a time I go down into the gardens and take my shirt off and revel in the cold splash on my back. I take a backhoe and start digging out the cowpea lines. From the kitchen bench where they are tightly pressed together the Tanzanian watch me as if I were a Jeopardy question, sets of whitetoothed mouths peering from the dank alcove amidst the hanging pots and pans and carved beads. Pressed together, communal, whitetoothed grins immutable in a state of wait, waiting for the rains, waiting for the rains to end, waiting on the tempest to end like any inscrutable calamity loosed upon them by the heavens. To be borne grimly on through eternity by enduring backs.

But they do not stir. I continue to be a question doing the questionable things. It is a different rain that falls here than falls in America and I can feel it in the places that the Americatown rainstorms did not touch. There is a primordial essence to it, rather than an echo. It is elsewhere too, in the sun that strawberries the mzungu neck in fifteen minutes or in the tides of the ocean seething out to leave a hundred yards of drying brine only to rage and rage upon the doorsteps of the coastal villas with the dying of the light. It is in the motorcycle bodibodis dodging traffic by racing through clouds of roadside pedestrians. It is in the iron fetid heart of Tanzania itself beating to a wild unfathomable rhythm, the primordial gut of a different world that people like me had always thought we understood, but never did, never have.

I plow through the soil giddy and carefree and feeling as in full possession of the secrets to this life as I ever have. The elemental fury about me is like a homecoming; the clay mud heavy hewn on my legs and chest like a final gown. I growl at the burn in my muscles and feel buoyed amidst the rain and the iron sky as if by the savage feathers of a kingfisher. Bent by the wind, racing in arcs prescribed by…Buddy trots out and hops about me. There are no eyes in the windows of the house to the west and the whitetoothed Tanzanians in the kitchen continue their careful study of the mzungu in the rain.

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