Hero: a poem about Robert Mugabe by Kevin Higgins

Robert Mugabe in 2016. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

Robert Mugabe in 2016. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

 

The day you fall, bawling into the world
in a village northeast of Salisbury;
in faraway Florida, Sidney Poitier is busy

being one day old. In Moscow heavily scarved
women mark the anniversary:
Lenin - One Month Dead Today.

Your two older brothers soon join him.
And your father, Gabriel, scarpers.
You are ten years old. It is nineteen thirty four

and all down to you. Mission schools,
then university. You are a teacher.
Your only son dies of cerebral malaria.

For subversive speech,
you are under arrest. Ten years.
You study law. The Party

chooses you. Rocket launchers
and Chairman Mao. You look in the mirror
one morning and see: His Excellency Comrade President.

Your name on the lips of a continent.
In the final act you start gifting
farms the white man stole

to your friends. One for everyone
in the audience. As the supermarket shelves empty,
your life fills up with dead people.

The country may be living on Styrofoam and grass
but will sing your name
one last time. The air fat with laughter

as you step into the TV to say
“We don’t cheat; but on the other side…
all sorts of irregularities.”

A foreign journalist is arrested
on the tenth floor
of a hotel near the airport.

Silence,
but for the sound of an occasional dog barking
on Samora Machel Avenue.

Outside your office the sign:
Mugabe is right. It is two thousand and eight
and all down to you.

This poem first appeared in Kevin Higgins’ collection Frightening New Furniture (Salmon, 2010)