Ndakanzwa Jongwe Richichema (I Heard A Rooster Crow)

When I was young and life was simple, years before cellphones,

I had to find somewhere to live, a place to call my home.

So I made a deal, with my good mate, Jem John was his name

He was an avid gardener and I felt just the same.

The place we took needed some work to spruce it up a bit,

The house was fair to middling the land a garbage pit.


A rocky, barren patch of earth where nothing had survived,

But paper thorns and blackjacks, which had found a way to thrive.

Jem John and Heidi (bless her heart) were childless in those days,

Unmarried, so they lived in sin, as grandma used to say.

Lynda and I had one small child, a bouncing baby boy,

But the two of us were married so we were the real McCoy.


One summer day old Alfred (which was Heidi’s other name)

Brought home with her a box of chicks of fluffy bantam fame.

“They’ll lay us eggs, and scratch for worms and fertilize the soil

We’ll have freshly picked tomatoes and it’s home grown veg we’ll boil!”

She gushed and cooed and fawned a lot over the feather balls

That ran around the lounge rug and in and out of doors.


Till at last old Jem John put his foot down with a firm hand.

“They cannot stay inside”, he said, and henceforth they were banned.

She cried a bit, to see them go, did Heidi when they went,

but cheered up grandly when she saw what Jeremy had meant

when he’d said to her he’d make for them a palace fit for kings

he’d clearly meant it, every word, it had lights and slides and swings


And there they lived, those little birds, out there in the shed,

safe from harm and sheltered while they ran about and fed.

Then one day stockman Jem declared, “There oughtn’t be a plight

if they go outside at day time and come back in at night”.

So that’s how things went on a while and all was fine and good

We went to work and back each day while the chickens scrounged for food.


Then one night, when fast asleep, I was wakened by a sound

I knew not then, from whence it came, my heart was all apound.

I sat there quietly in the dark and listened with all my might

Not knowing what on earth it was that made me wake in fright.

No logical solution came to me out of the dark;

no owl did hoot, no car backfired, no noisy dog did bark.


‘til at last I told myself there was nothing there to fear

and started drifting off again, to where there are no cares!

But as I reached that no-man’s land, ‘tween wakefulness and sleep

I was startled to my very core by an awful, ghostly shriek!

The sound of it was inhumane, I sat bolt up in bed.

“Could it have been a murderer removing someone’s head?”


At last the noise I heard again, this time it made me chuckle

I realised just what it was; a trainee bantam cockerel.

The sounds he made as he tried to crow were really quite amusing

Even though the little chap had pulled me from my snoozing.

“Poor Heidi’s hen is not a hen, she’s going to be so cross”,

Was the last thought in my mind, before I nodded off.


The next day, before she left, I asked of Alf E Neuman

“Did you hear your cock last night, making sounds inhuman?”

“What cock?” she asked, her eyebrows raised, all puzzled and distraught;

“Oh Jelly-tot, my dear, my love, what does he talk about”?

Old Jem John Victor, sage as sage, replied as a stockman does

“Just calm yourself my dear”, he said, “there’s no need for a fuss”


“Sexing birds”, he intoned, “is not as easy as it looks

You’d know this if, like me, you  knew of soil and sheaf and crook.”

He stood and waxed quite lyrical, that morning on the lawn.

I tried my best, but it was hard, to stifle all my yawns.

I do recall though, through the fog, despite my deep fatigue

that, statistically, they get it wrong as oft as once in three.


Africa lay dark and still – the continent a-slumber

But once again that bastard bird tore the peace asunder.

“That idiot”, I told myself, “there he goes again

Does that little bastard know it’s two A-fucking-M?”

I lay abed and gnashed my teeth and thought unpleasant thoughts

of the methods I could use to kill the chooks that Heidi’d bought!


Next morning when I said to Alfred, “did you hear your bird?”

She laughed out loud and just rushed off as if she hadn’t heard.

“Well fancy that”, I thought to myself, as she vanished in the dust,

“If you cannot count upon your friends then who is there to trust?”

Torn between a friendship long and some grotty little chicks

I hoped it wouldn’t come to that, I didn’t want to pick.


The day was long my eyes were sore, I yearned for a warm soft bed

to get some badly needed sleep with the pillow on my head.

In Moscow you get pardoned when an accident occurs,

you even get forgiven for the second time you err,

but to do it thrice is a call to draw the battle lines;

that’s what Sir Ian Fleming wrote in 1959!


Next day, again at two am, that cockerel crowed once more

leaving very little doubt that he was declaring war.

I wanted him to die that night, knowing fear and pain;

I wanted to end his useless life – again and again and again!

I lay in bed and gnashed my teeth and listened to that racket,

That endlessly went on and on driving me off my bracket.


That stupid bird could not crow and someone should have told him

but all his mates just egged him on making him get bolder.

The problem was, the sounds he made impressed them all no end;

they hailed him as a hero on account he set the trend.

His crow, if you could call it that, imprinted on my brain

my hate for him was strong and pure, I wished upon him pain.


I went into the shed next day, to see if I could see

which one of the little bastard birds was my enemy.

But nothing gave his game away, his camouflage was good,

the little guys were unconcerned, just pecked there at their food.

“I hate you all” I said to them, “I will truly make you die.

Have you heard of coq au vin, or bantam and mushroom pie?”


Heidi got upset this time when I asked her impolitely,

“Did you hear that bastard crow in the middle of the night then”?

“Oh Jelly-tot my love”, she simpered, “it really isn’t fair,

I want to hear my baby talk”, and she wiped away a tear.

I could not understand her mind right then, her crappy attitude;

she acted like the birds were kids when all they were was food!


At work I felt like death warmed up, my eyes were sore and crusty.

At tea time, when I told my mates, they all laughed loud and lusty.

I must admit though, that it calmed that dangerous resentment

so when I left for home that night I felt peaceful and contented.

I went to bed without a care only half expecting

that over zealous barnyard fowl to practice crow-perfecting!


But sure enough, he did just that, disturbing my sound slumber

and once again I was forced to hear his one and only number

that went on and on without curcease, frustratingly unfinished;

the cockalorum sang his heart out with gusto undiminished.

it fried my brain and stretched my nerves and jangled in my head,

but just when things could not get worse they well and truly did!


At first I did not trust my ears when, as if to mock my rage,

a second cockerel started up on that selfsame page.

And if that fact alone was not quite enough derision

a third bird, then a fourth, stepped forward for the mission,

which was to drive me quite insane, to make me lose my grip

and I felt it slipping till at last, something inside me tripped.


In a rage I flung the blanket off, while cursing loud and clear

till Lynda, bless her gentle heart said, “what is wrong my dear?”

“I cannot sleep”, I said to her, “those chickens have to die!”

“Come back to bed”, she ordered me, “or you’ll make Heidi cry!”

I heard the words she spoke of course, but to them paid no heed;

the birds had got my dander up so I went to do the deed.

Outside the world was cool and still, the stars were shining bright,

the cockerels were not calling now, no sound disturbed the night.

I came back to my senses then and that is when I knew

that I could never kill those birds, I could not follow through.

I also knew though, in my mind, that if I went to bed

They’d start their game up once again to drive me off my head.


I looked around me and I thought, “now what will I do?

If I just go back to my bed they’ll start again anew.”

I saw friend Heidi’s washer there and I got inspiration

how to rid myself, right then, of this maddening affliction.

So I went inside the chicken shed for my evil plan to start,

but they all just sat and looked at me so I almost lost all heart.


“I’m here”, I said, “to kill you all” (for my sake more than theirs)

but I was answered, by all six of them, with nothing more than stares.

I took a step into the room, still unsure what I’d do

and felt my naked foot sink down into some chicken poo.

That’s when I lost it all, for sure, that’s when my anger rose

there’s nothing quite as motivating as shit between the toes.


I roared with rage, I was so cross, they flapped and squawked in fright

“they should have thought about that when they started up this fight”.

I caught the creatures, one by one, and carried them outside

then shoved them ignominiously, one bird at a time,

into Heidi’s pride and joy, that stood shiny and pristine;

Her brand new slimline, metallic red, top-load wash machine.


By the time I’d done the deed my anger was all spent

I closed the flap on the last bird exhausted but content.

Then Jem John Victor  walked around the corner with a stick

and scared the hell right out of me, that sneaky bloody prick.

“What goes on here?” our stockman asked, scratching his tousled head.

So I pointed at the wash machine and took myself to bed.

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