In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • baba's voice mail.
  • Tsitsi Jaji (bio)

apple is unable to transcribebaba's naturalized speech.

                                        out of Africa'                                        s lion's den                                        he strides, to                                        brave each stare.

npr says 40% of americacannot read. others don'treally know what the

       fourth

means, what spell it casts.which flags forged,what oath sworn.

       this elderly black malekeeps driving.an elderly white female, amai,steers him. a wrong turnor sudden brake wouldlaunder them,as in, shit,they'd lose the little theycare to count on. folks,obama has left the building.

                                        she pushes play.

this hushed plea: daughter, i, eh,have not been able [End Page 641]

to get a gift for yourmother. i cannot leave without her.he does not say    she clings.he does not say    she grasps. or falters.

daughter listens:amai's birthdaywas last friday. they all atehome-made cake with candles:7 and 9. the frosting was store-bought.

baba says softlyall he has to say.he is too quietto be heard sometimes,    sometimes too angry.his mutedmood is never blue. neverindigo, just

quiet.                who fears death, he says,                           trapped here?his mother already laysto rest in soil her untutoredhands first ploughed, her loss histotal eclipse. his daughteris a doctor who cannotheal anyone. she speakslike an idiot child.

what must be understoodis not said with delusion's reach noras stubborn resort to the mothertongue. throat caught onenglish,this whispered anguish. hecannot get out of the housewithout amai.

                                        say: the clutch                                        will not release.                                        (he should not be driving                                        alone. or at all). [End Page 642]

they boughther a card at walgreens,on the way homefrom the doctors.a father-daughter outing.

sly guide, she      walked him to a rack for            wives. she suggested he hide a visa                  card inside, a landmine of decisions.

her mistake. still,they chose thecards together. (her wrist flickingunderhand, culling hallmarks ofexcess—trite and ugly and $7.99).

in the end, the visacard—the gift to come—mystifies him morethan amai's american tears did,years ago, that one birthdayhe forgot or slighted.even now his minddrifts like a cloud ofundyed greyfuzz

                                        the daughter's son—his mosthoarded joy—               her                                        sonnuzzles, pulls.

is this joy, one yearin? she lets her mind wanderinto her: our son still cannot sleep.      her son's father                                                                   is mukwasha to                                                                   her baba yet                                                                   "mukwasha"                                                                   feels foreign to                                                                   his cackalacky mouth                                                                   so he brandishes                                                                   no power in that name. [End Page 643]

                                                                   his spirit                                                                   does not sing.                                                                                 missing is                                                                   the limb that would turn                                                                   limp       into lope.                                                                   his cherished                                                                   phantom.

                                                                   mother.

                                                                   he, her ultimate joy, her                                                                   first love's final envoy,                                                                   their youngest. history                                                                   has made more of them,                                                                   by giving less. his                                                                   father dreams each black                                                                   son of america his equal,                                                                   and names this third one so.                                                                   the name of the father,                                                                   tenderly, clasps last                                                                   son to him, his junior.

baba strains her patience, one day's diagnosiscatatonia, the next he's all song and dance:

                                                                   didn't my lord deliver                                                                   dan-yell (all three times);                                                                   thanking                                                                   the nurse on                                                                   his actual knees,                                                                   clapping as                                                                   if he were home                                                                   ; hiiiyii, you have                                                                   delivered me                                                                   today!

he is always sincere, she grants.

                                                                   the back of her mind                                                                   taxes her – her son                                                                   half fed, his father                                                                   left manning [End Page 644]

                                                                   a solitary post while

she (daughter,duped again)                                          charts the wayout, again.

the old man makesher crazy. his mind is fullof old suspicions, old fears,old witness, old resentment,old expectation, old poverty,old shame, old pride.

honestly,

        baba's stories are like        ambuya grinding groundnuts        on the grinding stone that groundthe peanut butter. spreadon the bread, sold on the roadside,it paid the bus fare back toreading, writing: her mission.

a grinding machine grinds maize.        you pay to use it, to turn beads        of "corn" into mealie meal. which is finer        than anything america has on offer.

                                                                   anyways                                                                   these stories are taking up time.                                                                   seated in the grey living room...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 641-646
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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