Mozambique: April, 2000
by Danny Rothschild
He lived next door, and the wall between our yards
had already fallen down.
We slept in a tree house that we built in a eucalyptus tree
that grew from his garden,
but hung over mine.
I told him what I knew about trains, airplanes,
about the skyscrapers we would someday race to the top of.
He asked about cold weather, and I described the snow.
He loved the idea of bundling up in blankets next to a fire.
and using fire for reasons other than cooking.
He brought me to the sand dunes along Xie Xie beach,
and taught me how to break open a coconut.
He explained how this desert was not really a desert,
since it bordered the sea.
With his help, I learned to survive the heat:
wear only white, drink much water, wet your wrists and forehead.
I went to school and he was jealous,
though I thought him lucky.
When I came home he copied my notes
and explained to me the things I didn't understand:
he helped me make sense of the water cycle;
how evaporation became condensation,
and how precipitation was just a fancy word for rain.
We both loved the rain, but when the floods came,
taller than we were,
my dad's job forced my family to leave.
It wasn’t safe, they said,
but my neighbors got to stay,
and their house had just as much mud as ours.
My dad said we were the fortunate ones,
but I never saw how.
I want to tell him I now live in the North again.
He was always fascinated with frost.
He dreamt, and maybe still does,
of sledding down a hill covered in pure white;
I wish I could let him know
that its like sledding down the dunes.
I wonder how much water is still there, and how he’s doing.
I often thing about him, shoveling mud all these years,
while I’m here: shoveling snow.
There is some comfort in knowing we are doing the same thing.
I wonder if he still sleeps in our tree house, above it all.