POETRY

Engine Philosophers

By

The smell of steel and oil is the incense of our labour.
            In fields shot green with growth, brittle with grain,
or bare as anvils—we extend our hands over the iron altar.
Sometimes visions are lost through the slip of a spanner,
            a misplaced nut blurs a thought equally as a collapsed jack.
But no real workman worth his salt jumps in straight off the bat
to crank a shaft or turn a bolt. Down to changing a wheel,
a moment's silence honours an established principle.

Tractors, trailers, bowsers and sumps, planters, gauges,
            hydraulic pumps worked by drivers of different ages,
from different owners of different sexes, all contribute in sync
to at least three Arcadian laws governing modern mechanics.
            Sweet milky tea does the rounds. Discourse begins.
Here is where the poses of hands-in-pockets and fists-on-chins
perfected the way a solemn frown holds a solemn thought.
Here real thinkers never smear oil, from worked engines,

between thumb and forefinger; that's just not done
            beneath galvanised roofs of workshops or the bare
punishing slap of the sun. Not real thinkers! Something European
makes us want to speak German. And through the common
            phrase about all knowledge being interpretation—
cogwheels and chains turn in our heads. Consideration
changes down to movement. Old tools of knowledge, worked
and scarred, gleam flatly with the nature of honest work.

Togara Muzanenhamo was born in Lusaka Zambia and brought up in Zimbabwe on his family's farm, 30 miles south of Harare. He studied Business Administration in France and The Netherlands. After his studies he returned to Zimbabwe where he became a journalist before moving to an institute dedicated to the development of African screenplays. In 2001 he went to England to pursue an M.A. in creative writing. Togara's poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. Spirit Brides, his debut collection, was published by Carcanet Press. He currently divides his time between writing and administrating the family business.

The smell of steel and oil is the incense of our labour.
            In fields shot green with growth, brittle with grain,
or bare as anvils—we extend our hands over the iron altar.
Sometimes visions are lost through the slip of a spanner,
            a misplaced nut blurs a thought equally as a collapsed jack.