‘Tsanga’ – Book Launch Poem

The following poem was written specifically for the Ebook launch of Tsanga in Canberra on 18 July. This book by Heather Powell describes her life in a Rhodesian recovery centre while working there in the years 1975-1979. This was during the Bush Wars when Ian Smith had declared independence and before the establishment of present-day Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe. Tsanga was located in the beautiful eastern highlands of the country. Many of those treated at Tsanga were the result of landmines planted by those opposing the minority white rule of Ian Smith. An unorthdox approach based on laughter was part of the way taken to aid recovery (see the Lauch Invite below the poem).

At Tsanga1 (1976-1979)

pain is not black or white
pain has mutuality that threads its thorns
beyond the superficiality of colour and age

the war wounded and suffering disabled
had a commonality of understanding
that defined a special communion

damaged and partial, bodies without limbs
were challenged in the enormity of physical change
to find a unique resource in tragic adversity

Imagine being twenty and living in Africa
when a ‘biscuit tin’2 explodes in your face.
You wake up in a medical centre to be
discharged with paralysis in the left leg
and a brain injury that causes stumbling.
How would you feel your future fucked!

Welcomed at Tsanga; given-up by others
it’s hard to accept your predicament
but you gradually improve
encouraged by staff and exercise
and the friendship of others
less or more afflicted.

Out walking the scenic bush-mountain track
you fall on your knees to confront the ground.
Dick Paget3 bends down and face-to-face enquires
‘what exactly are you doing’ – you reply
‘just looking for my contact lenses, Sir’
and you smile as Dick laughs.

Then you break into laughter
and both of you can’t stop laughing.
At the bar in the evening others hear
this story, they too break into laughter.
Laughter, laughter – laughter abounds.
And for the first time – a total acceptance.

Richard Scutter May 2017

Footnotes
1Tsanga Lodge was a recovery centre set up by the Rhodesian Army in 1967
located in the beautiful scenic highlands of eastern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
2Biscuit Tin – colloquial name for a roadside landmine during the Bush Wars in Rhodesia
3 … Dick Paget was the commanding officer at Tsanga

For those that may be interested in obtaining this ebook here is a link

And below is the Launch Invite …

TsangaInvite

Your word in my ear ...

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