2 February 2017

'The Shearing', by Harry Owen

Warmth of the holding pen: ewes wait their turn,
huddled together greyly, tiny feet
tapping out a soft dance of nervous doubt
upon the wood laths for reassurance,
and I stand behind, leaning on a rail.

Sporadic low bleats. I’d half expected
the rasp of machines, bustle of rough men,
but there’s none of this, just uneasy calm,
a tense waiting for something to begin.
Do I like it? Am I relaxed, easy?

No, but not yet discomfited either;
this is just a day’s work, ordinary
as yesterday’s sun or tomorrow’s rain.
In the shearing shed, its floor wool-scattered
with greywhite globs, I watch them working.

No rush, a rhythmic shaving, practised poise
to release each naked ewe at last and
cast aside her limp fleece like some sheep-ghost
or pale soul upon its slatted altar
to be picked apart and assessed for truths.

Returned, they huddle, stark as candle wax
into the flock, faces, necks together
while the others wait their time. And now I
am with them, sly voyeur of the shearing,
witnessing their profound indignities

and thinking of Auschwitz. All this happens
in uncomplaining silence as clippers
snigger their electric penetrations.
Yet I’m here with the sheep. Will someone come
soon for me, heave me expertly onto

my back, drag me, hands raised in submission,
into the next room by my wrists to do
who knows what unthinkable things to me?
And if by some chance I survive, shorn of
all I am, whose bleak creation will I be?

--Harry Owen

Harry says: "Earlier this week I was invited to visit a farm by a friend to view the sheep shearing (a first for me) and to meet two wonderful dogs, Anatolian Shepherds, who protect the flocks. This poem came out of that trip.

Incidentally, the shearers were a 'gang' from Lesotho who travel from farm to farm doing the work -- and they were real experts. Very impressive."

Originally from Liverpool, and the inaugural Poet Laureate for Cheshire in 2003, Harry Owen emigrated to South Africa from England in 2008. He has published six poetry collections, the latest of which is Small Stones for Bromley (Lapwing Publications, 2014).

He has also edited I Write Who I Am: an anthology of Upstart poetry, featuring the work of nineteen young poets from disadvantaged township schools in the Eastern Cape; and the international anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World, in support of efforts to save this iconic animal from extinction. (http://rhinoanthology.wordpress.com).

His work is widely published in journals and anthologies throughout the world, including Magma, Orbis, The Kalahari Review, The Bastille, Stanzas, New Coin, Plume, MadHat Lit, Poems for Jeremy Corbyn, and others, and soon as  Featured Poet on Canopic Jar.

Harry Owen lives in Grahamstown, South Africa.

1 February 2017

Visit Africa: Ghana – First Trip

Few people know that Martin Luther King Jr. was invited and attended the swearing in of Kwame Nkrumah as the new Prime Minister of Ghana. Nkrumah was heavily inspired for freedom for Ghana by his time in the US during the Black Civil Rights era and the writings of Marcus Garvey (Caribbean). It’s undoubtedly clear, when Africans of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Africans from the Continent come together, great things happen! Check out my video from my Trip to Accra, Ghana.

Video: https://lelawinston.com/visit-africa-ghana-first-trip/

30 January 2017

On reading ‘Elegy for Ferguson’

It is a poem robed in a coat of many
types, dark-dyed never to stain, its life
in the hands of both warp and weft.
When I read it again I saw how hands
should be raised only in victory. And,
washed in that vision, all of my hands
suddenly fell, unhigh and not open
to misinterpretation. I will raise them
to hold the poem’s placard to the world
in towns up and down this country,
hold it the same way parents hold
newborns to the moon after birth,
and name them, hold it like garlic
inside a haunted house, read from it
in dark corners of my life, summon it,
as one does troops into action, its lore
like the mountains, with a sun sinking
behind our backs, marching into battle.
Because of your eyes of adversity,
your fire-power, the cold steelness
of your execution, you couldn’t have
inherited the gold of Ghana, leader
of our free world, the elephant power
that Takrur made meek even as slaves
were being captured toward Ferguson,
Kingston, San Miguel, you couldn’t have
inherited it, because inside the very halls
of your government today are women
and men who make noise like the hulls
of trading boats emptied of our souls.

Note: ‘Elegy for Ferguson’ is a poem by Geoffrey Philp that appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 20, N°2, Summer/Fall 2015.

2 January 2017


Come, I want to sit on your lap
with my legs around your waist.
In a basket: beads, combs, oil, and shells,
so I can play with your hair.

I want to massage your scalp with oil until my fingertips feel it come alive.

With the fine-toothed comb I want to scrape specks of dandruff I find, then blow gently.

With the forked comb I want to part your hair this way and that way, expose your scalp, letting it breathe.

Come sit, it's time to play with your hair:
twist sections;
braid others;
tie a few;
adorn some with beads;
and others with those shells we picked on that day it all began.
~by Makhosazana Xaba

Makhosazana Xaba