Size / / /

I have stayed with a lot of people, over the years, at our place. And, some
day, I was going through old stuff, pictures,

letters, notes... And I see a photo I don't know who

were in the picture, and who left it. It stands

there in my hands like an accursed thing,

an outcast, or a sacrifice to the

unknown spirit. I stare at it,

and still it doesn't bear

any resemblance

to anyone,

to any


the people who have shared the place with me, but it must have been left by
any one of the ten or so people or families I have stayed with. It is the
shadow I have always thought is in the rooms, and a prophet and countless
medium spirits said

there were two children in the rooms. I could see the

two children, and the rest of the photo seems

spoiled with dirt, smudgy, moth eaten in

places, and dusty. There is the rich girl,

she is unhappy, and I mean to ask

her why, but I can't ask

her. I don't know

how to talk


spiritual beings. She is tanned under a white dress with spaghetti straps.
It's obvious she is bored with her

richness, and then, there is a poor boy. Guilty?

Doubt? Yet it's a face that echoes that of

a poor child. The two children gaze on

the camera's foci, bored because

they have no idea what

melancholy is, and

the rest of


photo seems spoiled. I have been staring at the spoiled spaces for some
time now, and then I start seeing forms imaging.

I am seeing a baby. I look again, and yes there is a baby,

like images on a dirty window, dusty window panes,

like two children's handprints, as if the baby was

delivering priestly blessings. But, I know this

isn't a pure baby, a pure spirit, that I am

seeing. I realize in my poem's title I

should have included this

baby, this child

who sees,


knows, an imp, a little demon (are they the same?), a mischievous child.
This is the baby that has

blanketed me with shadows I didn't

know. The baby's arms points to

places in the sky where stars

should have been. His face

stands straight up like he

is trying to give the

wind something

to dry its




is the

boy who

had turned

into the arms

of a mothering

sleep, in this house

Tendai Rinos Mwanaka has published over 200 short stories, essays, memoirs, poems, and visual art productions in over 100 magazines, journals, and anthologies, and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His books include the political poetry collection Voices From Exile (Lapwing, 2010), Keys in the River (Savant, 2012), a novel of linked short stories, and Zimbabwe: The Blame Game, a creative nonfiction cycle published by Langaa RPCIG (2013). His website is
Current Issue
6 Dec 2021

I’m programmed to be autonomous, so I can access the public domain base for hair puns—hey, if I get a client who’s responsive, it can cheer them up.
it is your nose i notice first—you demon, you delicacy! / keen to sniff each invisible stitch of meaning / whether categorical, imaginary, or subliminally intended
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Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
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