Marian Christie

Peas

In the vegetable section
of the supermarket, I see
packets of sugar snap peas.
Country of origin: Zimbabwe.

And I remember Ambuya
who walked the twenty miles
from Domboshawa to our house,
barefoot, with a sack
strapped to her back
of home-grown vegetables
for sale.

Masikati, maswera here? My mother
exchanged with her the formal
Shona greetings – inquired
after her children,
her grandchildren, her journey,
her crops, the rains –
and took time to consider
the contents of the sack.
Scrawny carrots, shriveled onions,
peas hard as pellets,
small and wrinkled as Ambuya herself.

Ambuya was offered tea, food
and a rest in the shade
before she continued her journey.
With her sack much lighter
and a few coins clinking
in her pocket, she walked
down our driveway
graceful as a gazelle.

For supper we ate peas
that pinged from our forks
onto the floor. They tasted
of toil and drought and the blood
red Domboshawa soil.

Half a century later, in Scotland,
I put six packets
of sugar snap peas
in my trolley,
in memory of Ambuya
and her country’s freedom.

 

Note: Ambuya is Shona for grandmother, also used as a term of respect for an older woman.


Marian Christie was born in Zimbabwe and many of her poems reflect the troubled history of the country. She also writes on mathematical themes. Marian has a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University. She lives in Scotland.

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