International Poetry الشعر শ্লোক ကဗျာ ליבע ਪਿਆਰ өлүм
African Poetry with Tendai Rinos Mwanaka
They beat me with branches wrapped up in barb-wire,
they beat me with branches wrapped up in barb-wire;
my baby she crying, her face is on fire.
They say you are sell-out, you vote Tsvangirai,
they say you are sell-out, you vote Tsvangirai;
my baby, she dying, please God, tell me why?
They beat first my head then my back then my bums,
they beat first my head then my back then my bums;
they laugh and they say is like playing the drums.
I beg them for water, they say go ask Blair,
I beg them for water, they say go ask Blair.
Please, put out the fire in Mucheche’s hair?
My bottom is broken, can not sit or stand,
my bottom is broken, can not sit or stand;
Mucheche can’t breathe with her mouth in the sand.
They burned all our mealies, our chickens, our dog,
they burned all our mealies, our chickens, our dog;
my uncle, they hit him to death with a log.
For hours they beat me, for hours I cry,
for hours they beat me, for hours I cry;
please God, save my baby, do not let her die?
When they leave, like a tortoise I crawl very slow,
when they leave, like a tortoise I crawl very slow;
but my baby stopped crying a long time ago,
mwanawangu stopped crying a long time ago.
Once all set about with fever trees
where hippos squeaked like rubber toys
and crocs gave rides to girls and boys:
the Limpopo River, if you please.
Now the banks are greasy with leftovers:
a doek, a hair extension, a knitted
bootie (pink for girls), a broken sandal.
In the high and far-off times, the croc
he lengthened the elephant’s nose,
vamped it from a boot to a hose,
stretched it to a stocking from a sock
Now a decayed, half-eaten corpse, grey-green,
lies unidentified near the bottly
tree with eight leaves only, and twisty roots.
Once long ago in colonial times
they lied to us in clever rhymes;
now the truth is the biggest lie,
so we cross the Limpopo, and die.
John Eppel is one of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated writers/poets with over 18 books published. He has won several awards. His latest book is Absent: The English Teacher.
Should you want to say goodbye
Trudge to the hills
Standing on a cliff
Hold your lover’s hand
Point to them rocks and broken glasses
Lurking in the smallness of distance on land
Whisper into their ear the sweetness of
Running in the gardens with butterflies
Yellow, green and cream white hovering
Above your heads in a mile of laughter
Then, let go the hand
On a boat on West Lake
I met a man who asked me
If we were really meant to grow
Old and tired — wearied by pilgrimages
To temples lost in snow and fogs.
I said I did not know
Because young as a budding flower
I had seen green leaves turn yellow
Falling off leaving the tree in nakedness
And many more had died as I grew
And hoped from mountain to mountain
In my pursuit for happiness.
They had all waited for the sun to go
Then disappeared one by one
Each falling off into waters
To freeze along with the lake
When winter came hitting hard.
Civilization welcomed us on arrival
First, he spun the carousels to test our sight
Then he dragged the bags into the tramway
Before leading us to a cab driver who spat and laughed
Before ferrying us to where he had wanted us to be
In the years of great learning that were to come.
First night there was a fight in the sky
Between sleep and the joy of living closer to the moon
After flights on long winding routes hidden in blueness.
We all wanted to sit at the balcony and recount details of
How we had outswam other sperms into the bowl of rice.
In the end there was a stalemate.
We agreed to go back to our beds and sleep happily.
We did not hear civilization again that night
That we thought driving back to the train station
He had crashed into another cab or the tall buildings
That towered above us as we made our way to greatness.
But we met him again in the morning
Just outside the apartment we had been crowded in
Floors piled on floors to save space
In this land of a billion stars in the galaxy
Which at first was as abstract as origins of the first man.
Civilization did not tell us that hiding exhaustion
In our electric blankets on a bed far from home,
We would miss the stillness of night and the beauty of loneliness.
Every night we walked out and placed our heads on the road
To be run over by wailing sirens and cars trudging to nowhere.
That is how we became strangers
When one morning he knocked right on our door and —
Not even smiling as he had done when the plane touched down
Told us it was time.
Beaton Galafa is a Malawian writer. He currently lives in Jinhua, China where he is studying for a Master’s in Comparative Education at Zhejiang Normal University. His work is forthcoming in Best New African Poets 2017 Anthology.
African Poetry Editor Tendai Rinos Mwanaka is a leading poet and writer of the new generation of African writers and works hard to promote African writing through anthologies he has curated and co edited. Mwanaka has been shortlisted and won several writing awards, including being shortlisted for a record 7 times for the UK based Erbacce poetry award, 3 times nominated for the Pushcart, The Caine African Writing Award etc.
Here I am
on the same old stone
with Chipo my sister
our dreams of the future
‘A nurse after high school?
Why not an actress or an air hostess?’
‘A teacher? Crazy!
Why not an actor or a pilot?
Then together we could act or fly.’
I was gone
gone for a cause
and gone almost forever
for never did I think
I would come
as my power to exist
had almost been surmounted
by perils innumerable
as survival by a close shave
was the order of the day.
Then at last
here I am.
The hanging aura of solitude
the desolate and protruding mountains
I knew from childhood
And this very stone
I sit on
if it could only speak’
‘Where is Chipo?’
The chattering monkeys
and the barking baboons
we chased from our fields of plenty
now overgrown with weed
are no more.
the scotching effects of winter?
no singing of birds
as if in a cave
life has been buried.
I follow the same old path
up and down
a thousand times
my bare feet trod
driving our cattle
from the pastures
now bearing no footprints
of man or beast.
And when on the spot
tears I cannot control
for what was once
our beautiful home
a brick here
and a stone there
are the remains.
‘Mhai! Baba! Chipo! Where are you?’
and as if into the mountains
the echoes came back:
‘Mhai! Baba! Chipo! Where are you?’
A bone I pick
the only object
nearest to life
and the bone I bury
And in memory
I plant a tree
by their blood.
The Hunter’s Plight
As hungry vultures
Upon the dead beast
Another Battle Begun
It was the AK,
It is war
One battle won.
It is the hoe
To cut, to build
To hit, to construct
To dig, to mould.
It is war
The other war
Another Battle Begun.
Killian Nhamo Mwanaka is a Zimbabwean former freedom fighter, soldier, journalist at The Vanguard 1984, Editor of Gweru Times 1988 –1992; and was published in the seminal anthology of Zimbabwean poets Now The Poets Speak.
Featured Poem - Editor's Choice:
VENDOR AND CHILD
by John Eppel
Is that a shower of gold seeping
through gaps in the thatching of the sky?
What carefully wafting flakes are these
of light on fire, fading, to die
before they touch the woman and child
encamped beneath a municipal
cassia, now leafless, almost stripped
of life-transfusing bark? And when will
we halt beside her meagre tuckshop:
an upturned Lobels biscuit carton:
and buy a cigarette, a handful
of peanuts, and a blighted onion?
She cleared a space opposite the NO
STOPPING sign on Cecil Avenue,
a space she shares with sparrow weavers
bickering, and Matabele ants
that sting, and stink of formic acid,
with mandibles that nip the tendons
of her battered feet, and bear away,
piece by piece, the crumbs of her domain.
Sick, her child is the colour of ash,
a rag doll of hopelessness, symbol
of the new Zimbabwe. Who will buy
a soft tomato from me? Who will
deliver me from a government
of patronage, of cronyism;
a government of the obese, by
the obese, for the obese? Wallets
of flesh on the backs of their necks, folds
of fat behind their knees; like jumping
castles their bums, like teeming purses
their scrota. O who will deliver
us from these who have been coaxed into
temptation? And who will let that slow
light linger, those wafting flakes of fire,
and set the mother and her child aglow?