Victoria Falls on Zambezi River
I have spread my dreams under your feet
                                        —William Butler Yeats
by Susana H. Case

In the early light, a line of curio sellers
crosses Victoria Bridge
from Zambia, their trinkets
wrapped in sacks draped over bicycles.
They push up the hill,
past the hut
where tourists are tied in harnesses to free fall
through mist over the Zambezi.

The bungee jumpers scream in terror,
stopped just short of the rapids,
just short of the crocodiles.

The zealot imperialist, Cecil Rhodes,
envisioned the bridge as part of a train route,
Cairo to the Cape,
died without realizing his dream.
His remains buried in the Matopos Hills,
anti-colonialists threaten to dig him up,
send him finally back to Hertfordshire.

The peddlers dream of enough to eat
as they unwrap a carved wooden elephant,
lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino. From their pockets,
they pull out freshly pressed devalued
hundred-trillion Zimbabwean dollars,
try not to catch the eye of the police.
If a foreigner stops to look,
more hawkers run over, flash
more wooden animals, more souvenir money.

You mean nothing to us,
a curio seller says if they refuse
to buy another lion or elephant.

PHOTO: Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke that Thunders) waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe (taken from Zambian side of falls) by Steven Heap, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written after a visit to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls. Though the falls are beautiful, there is a disjuncture between the lives of the local people and the tourists, who come to see the falls or bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, that is jarring and difficult to forget, as the poverty is so extreme. And then there are the colonial implications of the bridge, brainchild of the grand imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

PHOTO: The author with Victoria Bridge and mist from Victoria Falls in the background, from the Zimbabwe side, 2015.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Dead Shark on the N Train in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was rereleased in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. Her poems have appeared in Calyx, Catamaran, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO, and many other journals. She is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City. Visit her at susanahcase.com.