31 October 2014

Preparing the body

He's dead; in Oort, the gods know.
As the news leaves press rooms
eels from the bottom of the Aegean sea
ribbon to the surface to wave goodbye;
we smear his body with Zambuk
and wash the rotted parts with milk,
parts that are known as the devil’s cut.
His wife washes between the legs
then returns after, to put the legs straight
again, before the thigh muscles stiffen.
This is why a man must die before his wife.
At the edge of the open grave I'll pretend
to be a man, and proceed to find a stone
to spit on, then throw into the hole.
This is how a man accompanies relatives
on the journey out of life. People look
around with downcast faces, longing
for a different chemistry of sleep.

30 October 2014

News

The news came by wire this morning,
as I sat to start the business of the day:
he is dead! They say in Maseru trees
refuse to line the streets, they have taken
a keen liking to revolution, and bring it
alive in the dark bark of their skin.
As you drive by you see them picketing the sky
with placards. At night they'll stand there
and refuse to sleep. Throughout seasons
a hard cry will reach faces of people going by,
who will die too, like him, the time will be wrong.
Children hang at corners in search of work,
but Maseru has no work for them. Its schools
are tombs of the unknown student, rooms
aching for the one who is dead. But there’s a thrill
in this town when rain comes, after it washes
the highlands, and in movement
greets the plough-pusher and the woman
with a clay pail balanced on her head,
to let them know that he was dead, but now
is alive. Such rain will not reach those like me
who are far from home, who cry in the locked
room of their hands, which before held god
strongly, but do not know him any more.

30 October 2014

29 October 2014

The blood of Ubuntu

Somebody came here while I was out tending cattle,
took my position in the middle of the hut where I usually sit
to drink my soup. The door was unlocked, the windows
open a crack, the dogs with me, during which time the cows
grazed, and sat down sometimes to chew their cud,
and decide which stomach to send the bolus back to.
In the morning I leave the kraal at five, after porridge
and mafi, long before the avian alarm rings in the coop,
because me, I'm a working man. I'm a farmer and a shepherd
and a warrior, like my father was. On the mantle is a note
this visitor left for us. My wife was out hoeing and weeding
the maize field with other women. That soil is hard
and harsh on young stalks of crop. Our children
were away singing 'Mankokosane against a neighbouring
village, hoping to bring down rain and make it wash off
the months of dryness. The cursive-letter note says,
"I drank your fucking soup and I'm glad, but add a dash
of salt and less pepper next time". Signed: Steve.
He finished the soup that I always leave on the table
for when I get home in the evening, after tending
my animals on the fat land that borders the river,
and eating roots all day. But I would not wish to turn
my back on Ubuntu, and drink Mnr. Hofmeyr’s blood.

#steveHofmeyr #Ubuntu

28 October 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Wedding

When you’re unborn you already have feelings,
music makes you tap your feet against the womb,
but even before then, before your parents meet,
the air is filled with sparks that pine for you.
We were just children waiting for the fires
of birth, and knowing all the flames and how
everything would burn. We wanted to see
the upside-down blossom of mother's dress,
which would twirl on the dance floor, the white
butterfly on father's neck, the gap between them
filled with flakes of slow confetti. Some futures
you cannot know; even after the ceremony,
the tiered cake, and Kool-aid for village children—
there’s still some personal dream. I stand now
as Isaac, who could not have known, a little before
the botched sacrifice, that a goat was at hand.
Even before, while his father sharpened a knife
and touched him on the shoulder like he never
done. So my parents would decide not to tell us
that the government was sharpening its knives,
and that there would be no replacement goat.
All around, people craned their necks to see
the procession of my parents move from church
to village in a rented limousine, the relatives
too. That’s how it started. Then we were born.
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Read more Tuesday poems here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz