MIdnight Train from Bulawayo

Greg Freeman

Each night the darkness arrived
like a switch being flicked
and it grew cold. The dancing girls
would appear and disappear;
but whenever you thought
they were about to conclude,
the marimba band would start up again.

Odd-job man, housekeeper,
and two children lived
at the end of the aid worker’s garden.
The boy kicked a ball for hours
with our lad in the yard. Dreamed
of escape to play football in England.
Let his feet do the earning.

Bungee jumpers leaping from the bridge,
deserted tourist lodges, hippos
in the lake at sunset. War veterans
entered government offices, to draw
attention to the state of their pensions.
‘This is very odd,’ a local told us, in 1997.
‘Zimbabwe is a peaceful place.’

The midnight train from Bulawayo:
half-waking in the early hours
somewhere in Africa,
looking out of the window,
glimpsing strangers leaving
along dusty, well-trodden paths,
bearing goods, disappearing into the dark.

The war veterans’ protest in 1997 marked the end of years of peace and stability in Zimbabwe.

‘Midnight Train From Bulawayo’ is included in Greg Freeman’s 2015 pamphlet collection Trainspotters, published by Indigo Dreams.

Main Location:

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Other locations:

Victoria Falls at sunset. Iimage by Greg Freeman