As my bum shivers on a Montreal winter’s
gum-tacky bus-stop bench, clenched against
sheering sleet & a disappearing day—
a distinctive stench slaps me.
The rancid-milk stink of Zambian beer.
How is it all the way here?
With that mere sniff I’m transported.
Bare feet blister on a baked-dirt street as I
tip-toe quick-quick to the township’s
Indian shop. Such a cave of intoxication,
dusky nooks & musky scents, stuff
bowing every shelf, such relief from the heat—
but I’m here for a sixpence of sweets.
When— sudden in the brazen sun,
with a torched-rubber scorch of bald tires—
a chibuku truck slops by. Its hot vomit reek
sears my sinuses. With every millimeter
of my nine cozy years of blonde-white dogma,
I’m pre-cast in my belief; faultless as concrete
& equally dense. No clue then of a journey
so immense it would vault me,
a vastly different creature, thirty years thence,
clinging to rescue in the shape of a last-hour
bus. This is how we’re betrayed by place.
By secret anchors lashed deep inside, which no
new harbor’s tide can release or change.
With my current moorage frozen fast
in this icy present-tense, memory is stubbornly
stuck; wedged, axe-like in that hot alternate plane
I claimed was “The Past.”
~~ ~~ ~~
chibuku– Traditional sorghum & maize beer
Decades ago, autodidact & bloody-minded optimist kerry rawlinson graviated from sunny Zambian skies to solid Canadian soil. Fast-forward: she follows Literature & Art’s Muses, still barefoot. She’s cracked some contests, e.g. Geist, Edinburgh International Flash Fiction Award, Fish Poetry Prize, and features in Lunate, EllipsisZine, Spelk, Tupelo Quarterly, Across the Margin, Painted Pride, Literary Review of Canada, Pedestal, Arc Poetry, amongst others. Visit tumblr: @kerryrawli