[Listen to a reading of
a man is tried, all the rungs and all holiness is taken from him.
Stripped of everything he has attained, he stands face to face with
G-d who is putting him to the test.
-- Marondera, Zimbabwe
The kids and I sipped cokes till Zheke came
back with his big cowboy hat pulled over
his forehead. I'd saved him sadza and nyama
and made sure he ate, hoping it would sober
him up before our drive home. We piled
into the back of his pickup truck and cruised
the dirt roads, cruised until his brakes failed
and we floated down a hill. G-d's grand test
wasn't whether we held on as we spun
off the road into a ditch, but came later
when we stopped to buy the kids roasted corn
and Zheke demanded I buy him a beer --
covered in mud, stripped of rungs and holiness,
I stood trembling -- face to filthy face.
Ben Berman won the 2002 Erika Mumford Prize from the New England
Poetry Club and was nominated for a 2006 Pushcart Prize. He has taught
in Zimbabwe and currently teaches high school in Boston.