Archive for August, 2017


will you walk with me ?






will you walk with me ?




1.




will you walk with me, my friend, my love?


our tattered shoes carrying us across our shared earth,


imbibing life from this, our common soil,


calloused hands testimony to the sweat, the pain, and our grinding toil.




will you share with me your abandoned hopes, your desolate fears,


sharing together simple joys, amidst falling tears.




we shall share a life together, not devoid of sorrow, loss, and not of hardships free,


but i shall always remain true to you, and you shall always remain true to me.




will you take my hand in yours, my love, my friend,


we have much to traverse still,


with many a worn-out shoe yet to mend.




2.




we shall walk hand in hand, vowing against injustice to always take a stand,


never to be a part of the soulless, numbed parade,


never to be seduced by the ostentatious, plastic charade.




we shall together, as one, carve our own road ahead,


walking on many a path yet to be tread.




3.




will you walk with me, my friend, my love,


as we lay together, your hand in mine,


gently kissed by the glorious sunsets, with you, my only love,


basking in radiant sunshine,


enveloping us from above?







A Tribute.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

(1929 – 1968)




    1.



    You had a dream, of pastures of peace,

    where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.



    2.




    They silenced you, yet your dream
    resounds louder still,

    in pastures not yet of peace,

    where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.



    3.





    You said that you had been to the mountain top,

    they tried to strangle your voice as you saw the promised land,

    those pastures of peace,

    where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.



    4.




    Today your dream is glimpsed in pastures,

    not yet of peace,

    for though they tried to silence your voice,

    your spirit in our collective hearts does rejoice.



    5.





    Your spirit, your dream,

    mingles in the winds of all those pastures,

    over the valleys, in the oceans, across the mountains,

    in every flowing stream.




    6.





    Today, your dream lives in the wind,

    seeding the prairies, the steppes, the savannahs, the pampas,

    pastures of peace,

    where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.




    7.





    We remember you today,

    with a shared pledge to nourish those pastures of peace,

    in each of us,

    where your dream may thrive,

    blossoming into our shared dream,

    bounteous, and alive.




    8.





    Your dream realised shall then seem,

    where children of all hues mingle like rainbows,

    when we give life to the promise of the radiance of your beautiful dream.










    A Tribute




    Not a Poem – Just a rambling tribute to Pete Seeger, Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter, Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie and many more.

    Please excuse the paragraph spacing. I can’t find a way to space the paragraphs.



                     __________

    1.

    It was a long time ago, when you put your words into song.

    This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” you etched on your old guitar.




    2.



    You wielded those banjos and guitars as weapons,

    fiddling out a hail of truth,

    of solidarity,

    of internationalism,

    of calls for equality, justice and peace.

    You said of Leadbelly, that “Huddie Ledbetter was a helluva man“,

    you sang through dust clouds and relief lines, you sang of “dust bowl blues“,

    you imbibed in us hope.

    3.

    When the McCarthyites called all of you “goddamned reds“,

    you sang louder,

    rattlin’ their prejudices as they slept in their plush beds.

    4.

    You “rode and you rambled” and thumbed your way around,

    the “land that is your land“,

    you believed all this earth was shared common ground.

    5.

    You sang of “overcoming one day“,

    the injustice, the pain that you witnessed along the way,

    they branded you left-wing agents of communism,

    un-American enemies of the state,

    while your banjo and guitars continued to sing songs of hope,

    of resistance,

    of protest,

    of love,

    eclipsing their bigotry and their hate.

    6.



    This machine kills fascists” you etched on that guitar as well,

    but they were deaf, they could not hear the tolling of the bell,

    the bell of freedom,

    the hammer of justice,

    the song of love between your brothers and your sisters“,

    they knew not that they were to sizzle in their own fascist hell.

    7.

    Then came the marches and you were there too,

    with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma,

    facing their spit,

    their venomous rage,

    their clubs, sticks and knives,

    but you always knew,

    that your cause was just,

    that the truth would pirevail,

    however long it may take,

    you never gave up,

    you sang and you marched,

    strumming yourselves,

    victoriously,

    into their jail.

    8.

    Then they shot him.

    They shot Dr. King.

    They murdered many more,

    yet you stood firm, you never wavered, your blood was red after all,

    and they could not tarnish the truths’ core.

    9.

    Then came the day, when Woody went on his way, to his “pastures of plenty” up in the sky.

    Paul too, passed on.

    Huddie said his final goodbye.

    10.

    You were then one, to face the battles and all that was wrong,

    but the people were with you,

    as they had been, all along,

    so you continued fiddling that old banjo,

    through Newport and Calcutta and Dar-es-Salaam,

    through unknown halls in numberless towns,

    across this earth, turning, slowly, putting smiles of togetherness,

    on faces that were pock-marked with beaten-down frowns.

    11.

    So,

    today as I write these words for you,

    Woody, Paul, Huddie, Pete, and many many more,

    I do so with gratitude, for after all the travails that you’ve been through,

    of loss, of injustice and of at times gloom,

    I know that though the old “

    flowers may have gone”,

    there always will be, as there always must be,

    a fresh flower somewhere,

    that will, with wild hope,

    radiantly bloom.

               ______

    note: all verses in quotation marks and in italics are excerpts from songs, or from words lifted from historical records.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     





    My poem published

    My poem ‘ Old Sof’town’ published in an anthology of South African jazz poetry.
                        _________

    https://g.co/kgs/1WJJh8


                       _____________


                     ___________
    Old Sof’town*




    1.




    In old Sof’town,

    the jazz struck chords,


    the jazz lived, it exploded,

    out of the cramped homes,

    rolling along the streets,

    of old Kofifi,


    in tune to countless blazing heartbeats.


    In old Sof’town,

    Bra’ Hugh breathed music, Sis’ Dolly too,

    and Bra’ Wally penned poems that still ring true.


    In old Sof’town,

    Father Trevor preached

    equality and justice,

    for all, black and white and brown,


    and all shades, every hue,

    even as oppression battered the people,

    black & blue.


    In old Sof’town,

    the fires of resistance raged,


    ‘we will not move’ was the refrain,


    even as the fascists tore down Sof’town,

    with volleys of leaden rain.


    In old Sof’town,

    the people were herded,

    like cattle,

    sent to Meadowlands,

    far away and cold and bleak,

    as the seeds of resistance,

    sprouted and flourished,

    for the coming battle.


    In old Sof’town,

    the bulldozers razed homes,

    splitting the flesh of a community apart,

    only to raise a monument of shame,

    and ‘Triomf’ was its ghastly name.





    2.




    In Jozi today,

    we remember those days,

    and those nights of pain,

    that stung our souls.

    like bleak winter rain.


    Yes, we remember old Sof’town,

    as we struggle onward,

    to reclaim our deepest heritage,

    and build anew,

    a country of all hues and shades,

    of black and of white and of brown.


    And yes, we will always remember,


    and yes, we will never forget,


    the price that was paid,

    by the valiant sons and daughters,

    of old Sof’town,


    those vibrant African shades and hues,


    of black,

    of white,

    of brown.





    * Sophiatown was also called ‘Sof’town’ and ‘Kofifi’



              






    Why does the sun dry up cascading, perennial tears,



    slipping down the coarse cheeks of a million hushed fears,



    where all are scalded when the searing fog clears,



    while prayers are mutely spoken as the end nears.





    We shatter and scrape on delusional knees,



    blindly scrounging for mercy as it apathetically flees,



    searching listlessly for a salvation frozen in the frigid breeze,



    spitting at the soft petals suffocated by a gasping wheeze,





    I know now what I need never have known,



    of hope that was trampled before it had flown,



    into a wasted sky filled with hate that could drown,



    the sniggering of the crowd and the sobs of the clown.





    A hope so fragile with wings of brittle glass,



    ripping away the veneer off the sewers of class,



    twisting the fabric of the weighed and huddled mass,



    who numbly wait hoping that this too might pass.





    For when shards of hope in hearts scurry away,



    to a darkened night callous to many a stray,



    perhaps then sewn eyes shall behold that doleful day,



    when all shall tear at each other while at each other we continue to bray,





    Deadened souls may wander the desolate street,



    for a lifting of the veil of wilful deceit,



    wrapped up in flags, religious snobbery, and a jingoism swollen with conceit,



    while humanity’s  limbs splinter in the claws of compassionate defeat,



    the drums of war tolling for the ill-fated who chose never to retreat.





    From that drenched battle-ground where blood flows through a sieve,



    where love’s lost song plaintively begs for a reprieve,



    from eternal loss which into raw emotion does cleave,



    only to slip through fingers like grains of sand,



    and silently leave.











    howling moons, broken teaspoons,

    cajole me back, to the track,

    the path i tread, sans fear sans dread,

    this death row shell, a barren cell,

    twisting and torn, of all humanity shorn,

    a living being, passing through this world unseeing,

    left in rags to rot at the curb of the road,

    where golden chariots roam and forever rode,

    gleaming high heels, covet greed-wheedlin’ deals,

    tossin’ a few spares in the outstretched cup,

    to the dregs strewn across the way,

    digging for something on which to sup,

    while off on silken robes we fly, far from the inconvenient 99%,

    we are complicit, all of us, you and i,

    high on up into the golden sky,

    where the promise of paradise waits, stalks, preys,

    on this highway of hurt, and on many doleful by-ways,

    but still, yet, through it all im stuck in this shell, this cell,

    and though this scribbled rhyme was written in joburg city, where i do dwell,

    if Woody were here, he’d yank us all,

    out from our apathetic, banal hell.

    we are made of starstuff.

    (inspired by Dr. Carl Sagan)

    stringed, strung, cobbled together, dna sewn from the cosmic rubble,

    theoretically plausible, infinite universes side by side,

    floating in the quantum cauldron, within a bubble.

    flotsam and jetsam in spaces between spaces,

    where time, and days, kisses and tears, fears and smiles, 

    racing, blurring all into cosmic dust,

    stoic wills, loves worn down into crumbling rust.

    starstuff, is all we are,

    hewn through eons, within us, and into the stellar void so far.

    starstuff is all,

    we ever were,

    starstuff is all,

    we still are,
    starstuff is from where we came to be,

    just starstuff:

    you, and me.

                     _________

    inspired by Dr. Carl Sagan 

    she

    they said she was opinionated.

    they castigated her for not following the norm.

    they dismissed her for being “loud-mouthed”.

    they spoke disparagingly of her for flouting cultural, religious, sectarian narrow-minded claptrap.

    they damned her for unclipping her wings, as she soared free into the open skies.

    she is you. 

    and may you always be you.





    Racism + Silence = Complicity.



    racism stalks the cities, slimy and rotten,

    memories of Apartheid, of segregation, so conveniently forgotten.



    racism infects the home, reeking and vile,

    memories of discrimination, of slavery, bubbling up like bile.



    racism must be fought, in words, in thought, in action, by daily decent deeds.



    racism, hate, prejudice, misogyny, islamophobia, anti-semitism, religious terrorism, sectarianism, tribalism, illegal occupations, gender-based violence MUST be defeated,

    lest the repugnance of shameful, disgusting history be perennially repeated.







    The 15th of August.

    ( dedicated to our late mother Zubeida ‘Jubie’ Moolla, and to all the women, the mostly unsung heroines in all the struggles for freedom across the world )

    1.

    Our mother was born on this auspicious day, in the winter of 1934.

    Thirteen years later, also on this auspicious day, in the summer of 1947, India cast off the yoke of colonial oppression.

    These dates, though a decade apart are bound together in our family, hewn together by the happenstance of fate.

    2.

    The threads of the struggle for freedom, the hunger for liberation, the thirst for democracy, the ache of sacrifice, are intertwined.

    3.

    The valiant freedom fighters faced the brutality of the enemy head-on, staring down the barrels of the imperialists with chins held high, relinquishing the comfort of inaction for the battle for those eternally noble ideals – the struggle against oppression, the quest for human dignity, the emancipation of women, the conviction of being a part of a greater cause in the service of humanity.

    4.

    The struggle for liberation in South Africa and in India left many martyred souls, many more victims of appalling cruelty, the harrowing pain of families’ torn apart, the parents and children ripped from each other, the savagery of torture, the massacres of the innocents, the decades spent in prison, the years spent in exile.

    5.

    The names of the martyrs bear witness:

    Solomon Mahlangu.
    Bhagat Singh.
    Ahmed Timol.
    Rajguru.
    Vuyisile Mini.
    Sukhdev.
    Steve Biko.
    Victoria Mxenge.

    Just a few names of the many more who gave up their youth, cruelly executed by the merciless foe.

    4.

    The torch bearers of the struggles, are forever etched in our minds, always kept close to our hearts, for these were the giants who inspired countless more to join the just cause for universal human dignity.

    Their names are legendary:

    Nelson Mandela.
    Lillian Ngoyi.
    Jawaharlal Nehru.
    Sarojini Naidu.
    Walter Sisulu.
    Mahatma Gandhi.
    Dorothy Nyembe.
    Oliver Tambo.
    Charlie Andrews.
    Ahmed Kathrada.
    Sardar Patel.
    Govan Mbeki.
    Nana Sita.
    Chris Hani.
    Aruna Asaf Ali.
    Andrew Mlangeni.
    Margaret Mncadi.
    Sucheta Kriplani.
    Ruth First.
    Subhash Chandra Bose.
    Joe Slovo.
    Raymond Mhlaba.

    These are but a few of our eternal flames – the flames that shall burn bright in the hearts of all freedom loving people.

    5.

    Our mother was born into a politically active family. Our grandfather a fierce opponent of racism and sectarianism in all its grotesque forms.

    Our mother grew up in this cauldron of political agitation.

    Our mother married our father and a daughter and a son were born, while Papa made his way in and out of jail, Mummy was left to tend for the infants, Tasneem and Azad.

    Our parents were forced into exile, with their beloved young children left behind in the care of loving maternal grandparents, uncles and aunts.

    These are the scars of history.

    These are the wounds that never heal.

    These are the sacrifices that go unnoticed.

    These are the gnawing ache that history often forgets.

    These are the experiences of countless mothers and their children.

    This is the price paid dearly for the freedom and democracy we share today.

    6.

    The 15th of August, a day of celebration of freedom in India.

    The 15th of August, a day of reflection for our family in South Africa.

    Long live the Women’s Movement!

    Viva the strength and power of the women!

    ( dedicated to Zubeida ‘Jubie’ Moolla, and to all the women, the often unsung heroines in all the struggles for freedom across the world )

    ​War Clouds Gathering







    the fear is palpable, sweaty, reeking, stagnant, primal.



    the spectre of thermonuclear war, the ravenous vultures circling overhead.


    all at the switch of a button.


    infantile lunatics at the ready, exchanging taunts, rotten school yard bullies,


    while the rest of us, the people, forced to hear the terrorising drivel and spewed vitriol of ad libbed threats,


    of the hubris of dictators, whose people starve,


    engaged in their machismo, their infantile game, their egos puffed and swaggering, their testosterone fuelled male ugliness putting on an obscene, murderous show.


    they have rested easy, ensconced in their grotesque wealth, cocooned and coddled, while countless souls sleep hungry and wanting, while numberless souls slog for minimum wage.


    these men are unspeakably dangerous, unhinged, seeing this world of ours as their fiefdom, devoid of humanity, brimming with twisted, smug arrogance.


    we the people, can not, should not, and must not sit silent, lest we be complicit by being mute.


    we the people, can not, should not, and must not allow our indignation to be squashed.


    we the people, have for far too long, been battered blue by the actions of such men, always men, who have rained death and destitution and destruction upon millions.


    we the people, can not, should not, and will not, sit quietly on the sidelines, as these men attempt to lead us to the precipice, the brink of horrific suffering for our fellow human beings. 


    we the people, can not, should not, and will not allow our voices to be hushed, our collective outrage to be beaten down,


    for we are now in the deep, murky waters of hate,


    and unless we rise as one,


    we doom ourselves to choke, gag, and drown.










    ​In your Eyes #6







    your light blazed bright,



    a comet slicing through the moonless night,



    enveloped by your light, dimming the pangs of my plight,



    i found my blue open skies,



    in your eyes.








    Today we rise.


    No more hiding in the shadows,


    of culture,

    creed,

    tradition.




    No more silent complicity,

    disingenuous arguments,

    hypocritical pretences,

    shabby excuses for the actions of men,



    brutal,
    vulgar,
    coarse,
    obscene,
    murderous,
    abusive men.




    Today, we rise,

    as one.




    Today the change starts,

    with me,

    within me.




    With you.

    Within you.




    Today WE Rise!








    In your Eyes #5




    clasping onto hope,


    fragile strands of sanity dispelling unseen phantoms,


    lost amongst the suffocating crowd,


    cloaked in your invisible shroud,


    fortitude restraining you from crying out loud,


    still your fire rages, crackling embers testament to your dignity,


    your insolent defiance, ever steely, seeing through the lies,


    your quiet strength resting deep,


    in your eyes.



    ​life, hope, and the now.




    navigating the path ahead, negotiating the thorns scattering the cold bleak ground,


    we walk oblivious of the ravages of tomorrow, not knowing the catapults of bliss and of sorrow,


    seeking only peace and contentment here in this torrid realm, adrift at times on waters choppy, hands tied far away from the helm,


    yet and still, hope breathes in, the soot of departed yesterdays, seeking evermore the promise of uncharted pathways,


    yes, hope breathes, infusing fresh air banishing the stale putrid stench,


    urging us ever onwards, imploring us to grab each day, from the detritus of the past,


    stilling the mind,


    now,


    today.







    1.

    Rain on parched earth, the rejuvenation of life,

    nature showering her realm with promise.

    Rain falling, infusing the rebirth of dusty leaves,

    nourishing the roots of thirsty trees.

    The rains remind me of you, the earthy aroma replenishing the day,

    your earthiness firmly rooted, revelling in the trees that in the rains sway.

    2.

    The rains are much akin to you, as I imbibe renewed hope from your cauldron of giving.

    The rains are much akin to you, as I breathe again, for you make each day worth living.




    clasping onto hope,


    fragile strands of sanity dispelling unseen phantoms,

    lost amongst the suffocating crowd,


    cloaked in your invisible shroud,

    fortitude restraining you from crying out loud,



    still your fire rages, 



    crackling embers testament to your dignity,

    your insolent defiance, ever steely, seeing through the lies,



    your quiet strength resting deep,



    in your eyes.




    ​In your Eyes #4





    in your eyes, i see,

    desolation flee,


    in your eyes, i know,

    is a humanity that shall always flourish, ever grow,


    in your eyes, i see, a fiery need, passion ablaze, mirth set free,


    in your eyes, is where i wish to be.






    ( for dear friend Nandita )





    May your smile never fade,

    may you always be as you are now,


    warm and kind,


    true and filled with the generosity of spirit that defines you,


    may your dreams soar into the boundless open skies,


    and may the benevolent fingertips of time and of fate,


    brush away any tears that should fall from your gentlest eyes.



    May you forever stand tall,

    may your head always be held high,


    with stoic dignity.



    May your past experiences be the stepping-stones that mark your path ahead,


    may your heart be your guide,


    your blazing beacon of wildly enthusiastic hope,


    may your wishes be simple,

    and may they come to be,


    filling your life and your moments,


    with joyous bliss,
    where you truly feel free.



    Free of the weight of yesterday,

    free of gnawing doubt,


    and may your being be infused,

    with the softest serendipity,


    so that you may spread your arms,


    and to the heavens shout,


    I am free,


    I am me,


    at long last,

    I am standing tall,

    never again to bow,

    or to fall on bended knee.



    This is a wish both simple yet elusive,


    a wish that only you can make true,


    by simply being,


    the kind, warm,


    gentle person,

    that is you







    The flying machine, a harbinger of death, flew across oceans, a beast in the morning calm.


    The Enola Gay*, and Little Boy** silently sliced the skies, roaring ever closer to ground zero.


    Hiroshima bustled, the sound of birds, of children, of mothers preparing breakfast, of fathers shaving their one day old stubbles.


    Dogs barked, cats tucked themselves in corners, children skipped, vegetable stands ploughed the streets.


    The Enola Gay flew nearer.


    Hiroshima’s people oblivious of the hell that awaited them, the fires of apocalypse that would soon consume them, laughed and quarrelled and worked and haggled the price of the fresh morning fruit.


    It was at 8:15 AM, the metallic beast prowling above released Little Boy.


    Little Boy fell, down towards the city, to fracture its people, in the hubbub of early morning.


    The Atomic Bomb exploded, its light blotting out the morning sun, its deafening roar bursting eardrums.


    The payload was delivered.


    The Generals at Command Centre were triumphant.


    The Enola Gay flew away, leaving a mushroom cloud rising higher and higher as it rained down unspeakable horrors, indescribable destruction.


    It has been said that in Hiroshima that day, and in the weeks and months that followed, the living envied the dead, their skin peeling off as they roamed their city, their home, consumed by the sickening howls of pain from every quarter.


    Little Boy exploded as it fell, releasing a heat that burnt people, searing their shadows into walls, preserved till today, a ghastly reminder of that savagery that befell all.


    Radiation from the Bomb creeped into flesh, scorching innumerable innocents, as nuclear ash fell all around.


    Man had created a weapon of such savagery, such indifferent brutality, a bringer of horrors, grotesque and merciless.


    Man had used the weapon, not once, but twice, for three days later Fat Man*** was unleashed on Nagasaki.


    I could write on, attempting to describe the indescribable horrors that rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


    I could write on, about the deformed babies being born, decades after those two days in early August of 1945.


    I could write on, about the inhumanity man visited upon fellow human beings.


    I could write on, about the stockpiles of nuclear weapons – tens of thousands of bombs – far, far more powerful than those that reduced Hiroshima and Nagasaki to radioactive ash.


    I could write on, about the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons housed in the silos of those who preach peace, of those who crow on about democracy, of those who let their people starve while testing the means to carry these weapons of hell across oceans.


    I could write on, about the hypocrisy, the money spent on machines of destruction, as most humans of this world go hungry each night and day.


    I could write on, and on, and on.


    But what more can anyone say, as the wailing, the shrieking screams of the victims echo across time,


    till today.



             _________

    * Enola Gay – the plane that carried the Atomic Bomb.


    ** Little Boy – the code name for the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.


    *** Fat Man – the code name for the Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945.






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