Jonathan May grew up in Zimbabwe as the child of missionaries. He currently teaches in Memphis, TN. Other work has appeared in [PANK] and Rock & Sling. He is currently translating a play by Günter Eich into English and holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Memphis.
I want to tell you about the time the horses were burning and how I couldn't hear anything but my father shouting Gijima into the heat and the gross clopping of hooves in all directions as the herd scattered over the road. A barn was burning somewhere and they had loosed the horses too late or no one but the fire had loosed them. Gijima, run. How the horses ran into the city, away from the river, their manes on fire as they careened beneath the jacarandas with their violent purple blossoms that caught all sunlight. My father got out of the car and ran towards the other men as they tried to corral the horses whose huge eyes were pure white with terror, their flaring nostrils sucking up the embers of their own flesh. How I jumped out of the car and ran to find my father in the crowd, thick as smoke all around me—voices in Ndebele and Shona, the crying children who watched the horses rise up and whinny in piercing ululation. How nobody cared a thing about anything but the horses. I heard my mother scream my name, her American cant heard high above the wailing, the old women clucking their black ashen cheeks at the destruction. Reeling from the smoke, I fell onto the main boulevard through Beitbridge, the dusty gravel littered with quartz pebbles the pale colors of candy. Everything was so hot, my whole head red and balloony-feeling from the rush and smoke and screaming. How I grabbed a piece of quartz the color of mint, each stone looking more liquid than the next, and put it in my mouth to suck on as I stood up from the road, now terribly afraid, wanting to find my mother as she yelled Jonathan Jonathan Jonathan as the light began to die.