Tag Archive: afzal


A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

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Pandit-Ji*

1.

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

you emerged an icon, from the long and desolate night.

Long years had passed,
since those humid evenings spent,
languishing in jail,

yet your mind remained unshackled,
putting words on paper in the dim candlelight,

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

I am now,
the soul of nations,
once suppressed,

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

       _________________

* – ‘Pandit-Ji’ was the name that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was respectfully called.

** – excerpts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947

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Gandhi-Ji …

1.

It was your beloved Jawaharlal* who uttered these words when you were gunned down by the agents of hate,

‘The light has gone out’, mourned Pandit – Ji*,

and indeed your life was snuffed out on that 30th day of a cold New Delhi January in 1948,

yet you live,

you live on,

a perennial thorn in the side of tyranny,

and the voice of the voiceless multitudes,

still scraping in garbage bins for a bite to eat.

2.

‘The world is big enough for everyone’s need, but it isn’t big enough for everyone’s greed’, you once said,

and Bapu*, your prophetic words ring true today,

in Soweto,

Diepsloot,

Chatsworth,

Gugulethu,

Alexandra,

and everywhere,

all the time.

3.

‘India gave us Mohandas, and we returned him to you as the Mahatma*’, said President Nelson Mandela,

Madiba was your son,
Martin Luther King Jr. as well,

and today your sons and daughters across this world,

look to you again,

in a world torn apart by sectarian strife,
bigotry, racism, religious intolerance, greed,

and Capitalism gone insane,

for as long as there are mouths that hunger to be fed,

for as long as there are naked bodies that need to be clothed,

for as long as your sons and daughters struggle for the very basics,

the 99%,

trodden-upon,
dignity stripped,
dreams tossed out into the sewers …

… we need your sanity,
we need your eternal flame to light our paths ahead,

we need you,

as the parched desert needs a shower of rain,

we need you!

and we need to,

remember that we are all human,

if we are to build a new world,

less cruel,

and more humane …

       _______________

* – Mahatma or ‘Great Soul’

* – October 2nd is the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi

* – The first Prime Minister of independent India was Jawaharlal Nehru,  also called Pandit-Ji,  and endearingly Chacha Nehru

* – Bapu means father and Gandhi-Ji was often referred to as Bapu or Bapu-Ji

afzaljhb@gmail.com

Spartaco Fontanot

D-Day June 6, 1944 …

Mowed down by lead spewing from Nazi machine guns,

Young men sliced on the the beaches of Normandy,

Blood stained the salty sea crimson,

Torn limbs and lifeless bodies scattered along Juno, Gold, and Omaha beach,

Young men, shredded by shrapnel,

Holding the line,

Inch by blood-soaked inch,

As the fascist juggernaut was brought down to its knees,

And still the fight raged on,

From the eastern front to the acts of valour,

Carried out by partisans in the name of freedom from the jackboot of Nazism,

There was a young man called Spartaco Fontanot and I end this poem with a letter he wrote to his mother :

Dear Mum*,

Of all people I know you are the one that will feel it most, so my very last thoughts go to you. Don’t blame anyone else for my death, because I myself chose fate.

I don’t know what to write to you, because, even though I have a clear head, I can’t find the right words.

I took my place in the Army of Liberation, and I die as the light of victory is already beginning to shine … I shall be shot very shortly with twenty three other comrades.

After the war you must claim your rights to a pension. They will let you have my things at the jail, only I am keeping Dad’s undervest, because I don’t want the cold to make me shiver…

Once again I say goodbye.

Courage!

Your son.
Spartaco

(Spartaco Fontanot, metalworker, twenty-two years old,member of the French Resistance group of ‘Misak Manouchian’, 1944)

* – from Eric Hobsbawn’s book ‘Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century 1914 – 1991′

Port of Call

Port of Call
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
with the breath of the ocean a caressing balm,
soothing pained memories away,
to the swaying of a solitary palm.
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
feeling the brushing away of all past turmoil,
on a quest for solace, ever so hard to find,
yet comforted by the crashing of the waves,
as the tide cleanses all pain,
and leaves despair far, far behind.
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
drenched in a sea-breeze of mist,
that hushes the ache of bygone moons,
tasting the salty tang on my lips,
as the burnished sun,
over the distant horizon,
swoons,
 
and dips.
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
searching, ever searching,
for a slice of solitude,
as memory bids a final adieu,
reaching under the sea so vast,
and seeking comfort in the depths,
while embracing,
the tomorrows to come,
wishing that they be true.
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
seeing my truths drown,
as they slip beneath the turquoise waters,
 
feeling my heart ablaze,
with a passion that rarely falters.
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
yet knowing that I am home at long last,
wishing the waves would wash away,
the defences that once stood,
like an impregnable wall.
 
 
Barefoot on a talcum beach,
 
alone, not lonely,
 
I have found, at long last,
 
my final port of call.

Pandit-Ji* – A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

 

1.

 

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

you emerged an icon, from the long and desolate night.

Long years had passed,
since those humid evenings spent,
languishing in jail,

yet your mind remained unshackled,
putting words on paper in the dim candlelight,

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

 

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

I am now,
the soul of nations,
once suppressed,

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

 

 

* – ‘Pandit-Ji’ was the name that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was respectfully called.

** – excerpts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947

The Solitary Depth of Night

In the solitary depth of night,

as dreams whisper forgotten lies,

memories murmur,
desires nibble,
passions simmer,

between the embers,
of sweetly burnt eyes.

As dawn’s breath cascades,

skimming over the borders of my hapless heart,

my eyes finally surrendering to slumber, peaceful and deep,

leaving me,

to dream of you,

dreaming,  asleep.

Walking in Gaza

Walking in Gaza …

Walking amidst the rubble,

a mother wails.

The bloodied rags that once clothed her six year old daughter reeks of caked blood,
stale urine,

death.

Walking amidst the rubble,

a father weeps.

The shelling reducing the home to bits of this and bits of that,
burnt flesh,
charred memories,

death.

Walking in Gaza,

amidst the smouldering school,

the bombed – out hospital,

the blood running into the sewers,

now clogged with emptiness.

Walking in Gaza,

amidst the savage fallout,

in – between the mangled homes,

the shuttered bazaars,

Hope lives.

Hope breathes.

Hope soars.

Walking in Gaza,

the resistance to tyranny holds firm,

as it has,

as it always will,

as it always must!

Amandla Intifada!

The struggles continue…

NOSTALGIA: My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons – Part 2 by Afzal Moola, Johannesburg, South Africa.

For Dr Maya Angelou
(1928 – 2014)

Vanquished by the day one may be,
Beaten down by the barren night.

Faltering at times,
at times upright.

Still one stands.
One still fights.

For though one falls,
One must rise*

*this scribble of mine was inspired by the poem ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

For Tony Benn (1925 – 2014)

For Tony Benn
( 1925 – 2014 )

You have not passed silently into the coming night,

your conscience towers above the brittle edifice of capital and of greed,

for as long as there remain hungry mouths to feed,

your soul is enmeshed within our collective whole.

You have not passed silently into the coming night.

Your battle is done,

the war!

the war is far from won!

So we pick up your scarlet standard,

and we continue to rattle the foundations at No. 10,

though today,

today,

we pause,

today we say,

‘Hamba Kahle’*,

to you,

our comrade,

our leader,

our towering ‘Big Benn’.

for Anthony Neil Wedgwood “Tony” Benn.

(3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014)

* – ‘Hamba Kahle’ means ‘go well’ in isiXhosa/isiZulu

Afloat on the River

Afloat on the rivers of life,

rootless at times,‎

bogged down in the mire,

at times a lonesome twig cast into the depths of despair,

a vagabond sans destination, sans care. ‎

The tides have washed me,

hither and thither,

never knowing where I would finally rest,

till you held my heart in your tender hands,

clasping it closer to your breast. ‎


All the while gentle ripples have steered me away from desolation,

breathing new purpose,

igniting fresh promise,

reaching around me,
enveloping my soul,

oh yes, ’tis you,

who has carried me through. 

It is only now that I know,

you are the river upon which I sail,

your love the wind at my back,

your presence a comforting respite from the detritus of the shallows,

while quietly you carry me,

towards the passionate streams of the lagoon,

rescuing me,

liberating my heart,

from the noose of the once omnipresent  gallows…

 

The Cauldron of Desire

Inflamed by my wildly fiery desire,

I kiss the fluttering petals of your soft, sumptuous lips.

I tease you,

my ravenous tongue sipping the glistening, molten drops of alluring morning dew.

Inflamed by my wildly fiery desire,

I make love to you,

in my dreams of passion,

my dreams of sensual seduction,

dreams of our erotic confluence,

painting, sketching, dousing my dreams in colours of my naked desire:

burnished copper-red.

scorching scarlet-rose.

achingly beautiful crimson.

Inflamed by my wildly fiery desire,

I dream of you,

dreaming of making sweet, agonisingly delicious love to me,

and in this dreamscape of irresistible vistas,

I see your face.

And I dream,

I dream of you and I entwined in ecstatic bliss,

and together we find the place,

the only place we passionately ache to be:

in each others’ arms.

Eternally.

Mandela in Kerala

Madiba in Kerala.

A comrade from the southern Indian state of Kerala shared the following anecdote with my father sometime in the mid-1980’s in New Delhi …

… On a trip to his home state of Kerala, the comrade said,

“…I was on a small fishing boat with some other comrades, we were going to an anti-Apartheid meeting that had been organised in a small town.

During the course of the boat ride, I kept hearing the boat-man’s voice, as he was singing, and quite loudly too, a song in Malayalam,

And I kept hearing what sounded like the name ‘Mandela’, over and over again,

So I asked the boat-man who or what this ‘Mandela’ was?

“You come from the city, and YOU don’t know who MANDELA is?

The Paths we Weave

The Paths we Weave …

Walking alone,

on these meandering paths this life weaves,

weathering the nudges and the tugs of destiny and of fate,

I have walked alone for many a mile,

but not today,

for today,

I weave through alleyways of solitude,

rinsing my cobwebbed memories,

seeking to steer my path,

gently,

so that this pathway of life may lead me to you,

where my only hope is that I am not too late,

as I place my soul at your hearts’ gate …

A Monday Wish

A Monday Wish …

As soothing as the glistening dew of this freshly-scented dawn,

as brightly blazing as the sunbeams drizzling over this enveloping morn,

my wish for you is simple,

my wish for you is true:

happiness,
peace,
health,

and the feeling of being safely cocooned,

contented and soaking in the soft glow of everlasting love,

that may always keep you warm,

today,

tomorrow,

and in all your morrows,

yet to be born …

Choosing to be Human…

We may choose,

to trudge down life’s pathways alone,

barricading our fragile hearts,

behind ramparts of stone…

We may choose,

to stow our emotions away,

shielding our weary souls,

from the promises of a new day …

We may choose,

to never be hurt again,

safely enveloping our fatigued selves,

tucked away from loves’ pleasures and its pain …

or,

we may choose to be human,

leaping into the cauldron of countless unborn tomorrows,

inviting loves’ soothing balm,

and perhaps,

caressing  away a few of our lonesome sorrows …

and so,

we shall choose to be human,

lowering the defences hewn from bitter experiences pummelled with pain,

as we welcome love into the deepest recesses of our being,

nourishing each other while gently letting go of yesteryears’ stinging pain. 

Chocolatey Dreams…

under a breath of dark chocolatey desire,

the furnace re-ignites dormant dreams.

Dreams dreamed,

basking in a warm cocooned glow,

as you so effortlessly,

set my soul so scorchingly afire…

things she said…

‘smile’, she said with a wink,

‘smile’.

I smiled.

‘kiss me’, she said, pulling me close to her cinnamon lips.

‘kiss me’.

I kissed her.

‘I’m happy’, she whispered, her warm breath in my ear.

‘I am whole’, I whispered to her,

and to myself.

‘I am whole’.

My Heart is with You

My Heart is with You…

Far too much has been said,
too many miles have been tread,

it looks like the end of the line,
keep it safe, that old heart of mine…

Walking with Hope

Walking with Hope

I walk with hope,
at long last, I walk with promise,

I no longer crawl,
scurrying between wounded moments,

I stand tall again,
at long last, I sing a peaceful refrain,

sheltered by your love,
I take solace from life’s bitter rain,

comforted by your warmth,
I soar free, high above the empty plain.

I walk with hope,
at long last, I walk with promise,

I stand upright,
feeling the radiance of your gentle light,

and I thank you for taking me in,
I am yours, and your breath spreads life,

deep in my heart, my soul, my mind,
you are the love that I have searched so long to find…

South Africa: Freedom Day April 27 2013

1.

On the 27th day of April in Nineteen Ninety-Four,

Freedom was won, at long last.

The battles were many, the foe brutal,

Apartheid tore our southern tip of the continent of Africa apart,

it’s notions of racial-superiority,

its religious fundamentalism,

its fascist tendencies,

its beastly nature,

ripped the flesh off the skin of our collective selves,

but resistance to tyranny has always been a basic human aspiration,

and so resistance flourished.

2.

Ordinary folk,

school-teachers and machinists,

nurses and poets,

labourers and engineers,

lawyers and students,

resisted!

We remember you today,

as a copper African sun shines bright this Saturday morning in April of Two-Thousand and Thirteen,

we honour you, who fought,

Comrades all –

Walter Sisulu,

Nelson Mandela,

Joe Slovo,

Ahmed Kathrada,

Bram Fischer,

Steve Biko,

Solomon Mahlangu,

Vuyisile Mini,

Denis Goldberg,

and many many more,

those we know and love,

and those whose bones have now settled in our rich African soil,

those who died,

those who were executed,

those who were shot,

those who were tortured,

those who were killed,

and the countless who are still tortured today by the swords of memory,

the emotional and psychological torture,

that still rains down on the valiant ones and their families.

Families!

Families fractured, broken and scattered throughout the world,

fragments of a sister’s laugh, a daughter’s smile,
bite as harshly into the soul as did Apartheid’s cruel lashes of violence.

So many died, too many died,

and I remember them,

Dulcie September – Assassinated in Paris

Steve Biko – Tortured and Murdered in South Africa

Solomon Mahlangu – Hanged by the Apartheid State

Ahmed Timol – Tortured and Murdered

Bram Fischer – Died in Prison

Hector Petersen – Shot in Soweto ’76

David Webster – Killed

and many many more,

their blood flowing into the soil of our ancestors,

our country, our South Africa,

for all South Africans,

Black and white and brown and all the shades of humanity’s mosaic.

3.

Now we reflect,

now we must dissect,

the fruits of freedom,

thus far,
much has been achieved,

yet,

the struggles continue,

for employment,

health-care for all,

shelter and housing for all,

and my compatriots have earned it,

they have stewed in the mines,

deep beneath the soil,

for shiny metals and glittering glass.

The revolution is a work-in-progress,

true liberation shall be economic liberation,

where each and every South African,

can walk the land of our ancestors,

truly free.

We SHALL overcome!

Amandla!

Mayibuye-i-Afrika!

The Struggles Continue, Comrades…

work in progress. like life

She winked, and smiling with her eyes,
kissed my parched lips,

I could not return her kiss,

and though the years have spun their cobwebs,

fashioning vacuums out of forgotten dreams,

It is that kiss that I most miss.

Tonight, I lie awake,
lathered in layered memories,

of love lost, and of love gained,

of open skies,
and of rains crashing through my weak rhymes,

that have strained,
across the vast emptiness,

seeking absolution,
for my emotional crimes…

(This Scribble is a Work in Progress. Just Like Life)

The Nearest Exit

The Exit …

… discarding memories,
suffocating in nostalgia’s throttling grip,

I flee, moment by moment,
away from the now,

seeking, yearning,

chasing phantom clouds of promise,

coveting shrouded whispers of hope,

seducing empty vessels of belonging,

I flee, moment by moment,
away from the now,

seeking, yearning,

lost, alone, torn,

slowly crawling to the nearest exit

The Slothful Musings of an Indicted Leech …

… I suck. Simply put, I suck.

Attaching my slimy being,

surreptitiously clingy,
nauseatingly smooth,
ingratiatingly insidious,

onto warm sources of sustenance.

I suck, I leech, I drain,

the elements of good-nature,

turning smiles into profitable ventures,

sucking, leeching, draining,

the beings I encounter,

suctioned cups of guilt,
of predatory precision,
surgical frigidness,
clinical intent,

sucking, leeching, draining,

till fattened,

bulging with burgeoning gains,

flush with siphoned-off goodwill,

bloated by hubris,

slipping away,

slithering into my den,

creeping on borrowed legs,

seeing with donated eyes,

cloaked in spurious fabric,

I leech, I suck.

Self-pity my only refrain,

flushing what is left of a soul,

down,

into the welcoming drain.

My Wishes are Simple

My Wishes are Simple

My wishes are simple,
my desires few,

to gaze upon an ocean,
and marvel at a solitary drop of dew.

My wishes are simple,
my dreams not too grand,

to feel the waves teasing my tired feet,
with no footprints left in the cool, wet sand.

My wishes are simple,
my thoughts serenely gentle, calm,

my heart resting beneath a swaying palm,

healing my being, caressed by nature’s soothing balm.

The Beach of Promises

The Beach of Promises

1.

Fingers entwined, barely touching,
turquoise waters teasing your dancing toes,

strolling along that serene deserted beach,
our promised dreams within aching reach.

2.

Hands clasped, holding on,
sea-breezes tickling the nape of your neck

walking together, alone, vowing to never breach,
the dreams dreamed on that faraway velvet beach.

3.

Hands in my pockets, alone,
traces of you linger, teasing,

lost in my scribbles, your memory fading out of reach,

my thoughts ablaze, now and then,
catching a whiff of your fragrance,

wafting through alleyways of nostalgia,
your hand in mine on our pristine beach.

Your Whisper

You whispered in my ear,

a breathy secret, hushed.

 

“I love you”, you murmured.

 

I said nothing,

lost, in your arms,

I found a home. At last.

 

“I love you”, you said,

I said nothing,

lost in my thoughts,

I found peace. At last.

 

“I love you”, you said,

words failed me then.

 

They still do

Where Wild Violets Grow

Where Wild Violets Grow

Scribbling these verses,
caressing your bare back,
simple rhymes,
flowing from my fingertips.

Scribbling verses,
sprinkling odes to fragrant promises,
your smile lightens the burdens,
off my heavy heart.

Scribbling verses,
soaked in countless kisses,
the moonlight waltzing on your skin.

Scribbling verses,
feeling you,
your love never ceases to flow,

through the streams of my mind,
to a place of our own,
where wild violets grow.

The Nameless

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Slipping through the sieve of history,

the nameless rest.

Not for the nameless are roads renamed, nor monuments built.

Not for the nameless are songs sung, nor ink spilled.

The nameless rest.

Their silent sacrifice,
quiet ordeal,
muted trauma,

remain interred,
amongst their remains.

The nameless rest.

Not for the nameless are doctorates conferred, nor eulogies recited.

Not for the nameless are honours bestowed, nor homages directed.

The nameless rest.

They rest within us,
they walk with us,

in every step that we tread.

They rest within us,
they walk with us,

for their spirit is not dead.

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“Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal”

– inscription at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier WWII in Moscow

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Special thanks to my dearest elder sister Tasneem Nobandla Moolla, whose conversations with me about life as a non-white person growing up in pre and post-Apartheid South Africa prompted me to write this dedication to the countless, nameless South Africans of every colour, whose sacrifices and dedication in the struggle against Apartheid tyranny must never be forgotten.

My sister’s middle name ‘Nobandla’ which is an isiXhosa name and means “she who is of the people” was given by her godfather, Nelson Mandela, my father’s ‘best-man who could not be, as Nelson Mandela was unable to-make it to my parent’s wedding as he was in jail at the time in the old Johannesburg Fort. This was the 31st December 1961.

My Madness, Me

Madness

Confined by this straight-jacket,
strapped in, numb and dumbed,
a washed-out, has-been, also-ran,

body, eyes, the equilibrium of mind,
rattling like stones in an old tin-can.

Still, I am,

I am,

and I am unchained,

my dreams taking flight, soaring,
above these claustrophobic walls,
of synapses, and dungeons of stone,

swooping through green valleys,
taking a detour to savour the joys,

soaked in torrential, evergreen memories,
of a younger man, with passion in his bone.

I am.

My wings unclipped, unshackled, free,

I am, and though I am unable to see,

I am.

At long last,

me.

The Sound of Distant Ankle Bells

Memories of those delicate tinkling bells,
casually fastened around calloused feet,

take hold of my waking moments,

and fling my thoughts back to a distant time,
where folk-songs were heartily sung,
joyful, yet hopelessly out of rhyme.

I barely saw her, a construction labourer perhaps,
hauling bricks, cement, anything, on a scorching Delhi day,
while in the semi-shade of a Gulmohar tree, her infant silently lay.

A cacophony of thoughts such as these swirl around,
yanking me away from the now, to my cow-dung littered childhood playground.

Now, a lifetime of displacement has hushed the jangling chorus of the past,
to a faint trickle of sounds, as distant as an ocean heard inside tiny sea-shells,

and,

I know, that the orchestral nostalgic crescendo, rises, dips, and swells,
as tantalisingly near, yet a world of time away, as were the tinkling of her ankle-bells.

She

She

She smiled, gently,
her warmth infusing me,
with a serene stillness of time.

She settled, slowly,
in my waking thoughts,
a soothing balm of simple joy.

She remains, scribbled,
on the walls of my fractured heart,
memories of happiness that once breathed…

…and is no more

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The Petty Posh-Wahzee – Liberation & Ostentation

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The Not-So Distant Past:

The fallen fighters for freedom, are unable to turn in their graves,
their battered, fragmented bones, mixed with a handful of torn rags,
are all that remain, a mute reminder of their selfless valiant sacrifice.

They endured brutal Apartheid harassment, detentions without trial,
torture in the cells, and mental anguish when loved ones disappeared,
they left their homeland, to continue the struggle against racial bigotry,
while countless others fought the scourge of white-minority rule at home.

Nelson Mandela and many, many others, spent their lives imprisoned,
on islands of stone, and on islands of the cruellest torture, yet they stood,
never bowing, never scraping, they stood, firm for ideals for which they were prepared to die,

and many, many comrades did die, at the hands of the callous oppressor,
and many, many comrades perished in distant lands, torn from their homes,
while the struggle continued, for decades, soaked in blood, in tears, in pain.

The Present:

19 years have passed, since freedom was secured at the highest of prices,
delivering unto us, this present, a gift of emancipation from servitude,

a freedom to walk this land, head held high, no longer second-class citizens,
in the land of our ancestors, whose voices we hear and need to heed today.

I do not care much for fashion, Lewis-Fit-On and Sleeves unSt.-Moron,
yet the ostentation that I witness baffles even my unsophisticated palate,

our ancestors’ plaintive whispers are being dismissed, left unheeded, as
we browse the aisles for more and more, always for more and yet more.

Asphyxiated by the excess of the Petty Posh-Wahzee, we find ourselves,
perched precariously on the edge, of a dissolution of all that is humane,

babies go hungry, wives are battered, our elders left in hospitals for hours,
I cringe as I scribble these words, perhaps too sanctimonious and preachy,

yet I know, deep in the marrow of my brittle bones, I know, I know, I know,
this tree of freedom planted by the nameless daughters and sons of Africa,

needs to be shielded, nurtured, protected from our very own baser impulses,
so that the precious tree of freedom, may bear the fruit that may feed us all,

for if not, then we are doomed, to tip over, and into the yawning abyss, we shall fall.

The Tears of the Clown

A veil of smiles,
worn effortlessly.

Tuning out the blurring din,
alone in the cackling throng,

never hoping to belong,
though pining to fit-in.

Peeling off the thin facade,
feeling the pained charade,
melting into the dim parade.

Trickling effortlessly down,
over the strained contours,

of a spurious laugh,

the tears of the clown,

rehearsed, rehashed,

form an unending cold stream,
dissolving the lingering traces,

of this simple boy’s dream

Within Me

Within Me

Flowing through the rivulets of my everyday thoughts,
memories of you surface, gasping for air, breathing in,
permeating, absorbed by the pores of my ageing skin.

Famished, greedily gulping mouthfuls of fractured life,
awash in distant yesteryear, when your feathery kisses,
banished the vacuum, dispelling my anguish and strife.

You are eternally carved, and embroidered into my soul,
I wash ashore, smashing against the boulders of the now,
seeking solace, begging for absolution with my empty bowl.

The book of fate is sealed shut, the tea-leaves have been read,
nothing remains within me, the burden of smiling has been shed.

Now I am stranded, between dreams and the empty years ahead,
searching for forgiveness, in the miles I have yet to wearily tread.

When,

the hushed rage of prejudice rejoices in triumphant pomp and hateful ceremony

and,

the silent dagger of fascism plunges deep into the soul of a world bereft of hope

and,

the long knife of embraced apathy twists and turns in the backs of the weakened ones

then,

maybe we’ll open our eyes

and perhaps then we’ll open our sewed-up mouths

and maybe only then will we whimper in mock shock and oblivious surprise

for,

the festering hate that spirals around us

in the fertile minds of quasi-intellectual bigotry

is unafraid and speaks in the loudest baritone

yet,

we accept

we acquiesce

we wish it all away

but,

there will come that time when the lines are drawn

when the purest hearts of silently smiling bigotry will hold the world in their sway

with their cherubic, agreeable arguments sprinkled with pieces of fact that will kill, rape and slay

what then,

I ask, will we do that day?

As she lies bleeding

the girl who skipped and hopped to school

all of nine and a half years old

with ribbons in her hair and a laugh that was

her father’s pride

 

As she lies bleeding

the warm bullet lodged in her torn stomach

she stares at her skipping rope

as her blood soaks it the colour of the cherries her mummy buys

 

As she lies bleeding

she sees the people through the thick black smoke

blurred visions of scattering feet and shoes left behind

hearing nothing but the pinging in her blown-out eardrums

 

As she lies bleeding

she slips away quickly and then she is dead

a mangled heap of a nine and a half year old girl

whose laugh was her father’s pride

As she lies bleeding

for even in death she bleeds some more

the warm bullet wedged in her torn stomach

steals the light from her bright little eyes

as she lies bleeding

in jallianwala bagh in ‘19

leningrad in ‘42

freetown in ‘98

soweto in ‘76

jenin in ‘02

hanoi in ‘68

beirut in ‘85

kabul now

basra still

gaza too

As she lies bleeding

this little nine and a half year old girl

whose laugh was her father’s pride

we know she’ll bleed and bleed some more

tomorrow and in many tomorrows yet unborn

with that warm bullet in her stomach

ripped open and torn

As she lies bleeding.

When silent prejudice strikes

in living rooms with plumped-up sofas

a quietly insidious venom begins to seep

into the consciousness of the chattering ones as they sleep

 

The beliefs held so true and so deep

appear stripped of all feeling

empty and hollow and without compassion

as the conceit grows in the chests of those with righteous passion

 

the prejudice once firmly entrenched

is worn like a warm and comforting shawl

needing precious little to compound and to mutate

into the doctrines of superiority and of aloofness and of hushed hate

we are all guilty of succumbing to this silent pervasive plague

as we sip martinis and laugh and shovel more food on our heaving plates

and as we slip into pleasantly inebriated moments we dare not care

to smell the stench of hate & prejudice & greed wafting in the cool evening air.

Your orders may come now…

…or at 19h45 this evening.

‘Shoot to kill’
‘Engage the enemy’
‘Hold the line’
‘Break up the gathering’

‘Ready, aim, fire’

but you have felt too

the stab of hunger
the bite of thirst
the bayonet of loss
the wound of despair

but you have seen too

the pain in a mother’s eyes
the grief in a father’s face
the incomprehension in a child’s down-cast look

‘Ready, aim, fire’

but you, the nameless soldier have heard

the cries of the grieving family
the wailing of the widowed wife
the quiet agonizing sound of the child’s weeping

‘Ready, aim, fire’

your orders may come now
or at 23h30 tonight
or tomorrow
or the day after that
or next week or month or year

but you have seen and felt and heard too

the agony of a peoples’ simple desire
the hurt of a nation long bludgeoned
the wounds of your stolen generation

so when that order comes

now

or at 03h30 tomorrow morning
‘Ready, aim, fire’

let your humanity muzzle your rifle
let your conscience dismiss the order
let your better side come to the fore

and let your very own people, your mother and your father, your sister and your brother, your son and your daughter, your friend and your lover
let them live
let them be
let your rifle fall to the soil of your beloved motherland

o’ nameless soldier.

Between the folds of faith and belief,

tucked neatly in cushioned corners,

lie the seeds of acceptable hate.

Through quaint pleasant rituals,

and joyously hummed words,

dumbed down thoughts

and dazed faces exude,

righteous sweetness.

Belief wrapped in glistening foil,

faith painted in gaudy colours,

concealing the murmurs of hate,

of embraced intolerance,

and welcomed bigotry.

The seeds of acceptable hate flourish in damp fungal minds,

as indifference flowers into the silence of frozen apathy,

with blooming petals of finely measured howls of rage.

All the while the ever smiling faces beam with deep pride,

drenched in all the pious tears they’ve cried.

And so it is that the viral seeds of acceptable hate

thrive among the genteel folk that quietly gaze,

in silence at the slow creeping of the horror.

As more seeds of hate are sown with manic zeal,

and in the shrieking of this cowardly silence,

the seeds of acceptable hate,

continue to thrive,

and to germinate.

when tyrants tremble
at the fury of those who tremble no more

their veneer of stability seems rotten to the core

when the trembling ones shake off their long-hushed fear

the trembling ones
tremble now with a rage that injustice everywhere can hear

when tyrants tremble
as the dispossessed shake their foundations of tyrannical conceit

tyrants tremble
when the common ones expose the phantoms of tyranny’s deceit

when the trembling ones
refuse to be cowed and bowed and beaten down again

the trembling ones
scream their vehemence as they have little to lose and freedom and dignity to gain

when tyrants tremble
their trembling resounds and echoes around the world

tyrants tremble
then in each far-flung tyranny at the peoples’ flag being unfurled

and finally when the trembling ones
take back the citadels, the streets, the squares, and the parks

the trembling ones
send a message to power that revolutions may be triggered by the merest of livid sparks

and that tyranny may reign for a decade or a generation or even two

but tyranny must eventually succumb to the rage of the common ones that appears suddenly out of the bright clear blue

this isn’t a warning or a threat or a declaration of ill intent

this is a sober lesson in history for the peoples’ history with oppressive stasis can never be content

when tyrants tremble
they should know that there will someday come a trembling surprise

for the garbage heap of history patiently awaits each tyrant’s wretched demise

again…

when i feared that you were slipping away

i feared more for myself, in truth I say, than for you

again…

you came back to us

again…

your light shone, ablaze

reaching inside of me with the warmth of your dignity

with your infinite gentleness

with your effortless peace

with all that makes you, you

again…

soothing me as you soothed a nation

and a people, and people everywhere

of every hue

and of every creed

and of the human spirit itself

again…

you gave of yourself

92 and frail and weak and alive

oh yes alive!

again…

you breathed my fears away

you embraced me as you have always done

again…

you made me cry

weeping tears of joy for you

for your light to shine on through

again…

you shined so brightly

as I basked in your warmth of you being you

again…

you cradled my shaken being in your hands, lined with age and with wisdom and with a pureness so bright

that just knowing that you are back home, smiling that fatherly smile of yours

was enough for me, to slip into the waiting arms of this warm and joyous night

and again…

though i know that you cannot be with me forever more

you came back to me on this night

and just knowing that you are still here with me now

is enough now, for within me, you will reside forever more

just knowing that you are resting and recovering at home

filled, and fills me with peace and with joy

with the peace and the joy that has been your gift to me, and to us, one and all

shaking me to my very core

as you have selflessly done

throughout my life, and on countless occasions before

He is home

you are home

and

i am home with you

as your light of life continues to shine

now and forever

warm and dignified and forever true

Viva Nelson Rolihlala ‘Madiba’ Mandela Viva!

as you continue the struggle some more, today for life…

‘it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die’ you said, all those years ago

as you stood in the dock awaiting the sentence of death

they locked you up instead

for 27 hard and long and arduous years

you stood firm
you never wavered
you gave hope to us all

and then when they could no longer keep up their unjust tyranny

you emerged into the light of freedom

your hand raised in a defiant fist in the february Cape Town air

– Amandla!

you then weaved and bobbed and fought some more, the boxer in you always present

you fought for peace in our land

for us all you fought

and then came that glorious day

when you were our president

and we laughed and we cried

and you fought for us even more

today you fight a different fight

for life, and we are helpless

we, who you fought for all along

have only hope and prayer and song and wishes of life for you

today, you fight some more

may you fight for life some more, Tata Madiba!

and may you prevail

for you are our father

and father, your children call out to you once more

with wishes
prayers
songs

your children wish for you, to remain here with us some more

and though helpless your children may be

in this battle that you wage for life today

and though frail and old your body is

your indomitable spirit smiles that inimitable Madiba smile

your spirit resides in each of us

your loving children

amandla!

 

you are our eternal inspiration

our hopes
our dreams
our conscience

you gave everything of yourself
so that we may live and love and laugh and dream and breathe the air of freedom, dignity and liberty

you lead us through the darkest days with your unshakeable principles and your belief in us

you brought peace and freedom to us

and when at times we felt all was lost

you stayed with us as a father would

you lent us your wisdom
and you chastised us too

and we are here today because of you
you stayed with us, Nelson Rolihlala ‘Madiba’ Mandela, through all the crests and valleys of our turbulent times

you stayed with us, father
today, we hope and pray and wish
that you, our father Madiba
stay with us still
stay with us, Madiba
stay with us…

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.

Infinite tendrils,
weave exquisite patterns,
forming an immaculate, delicate sheaf,

while morning’s dew whispers,
tales of forgotten woes,
left scribbled on every leaf.

Murmurs float gently,
across solitary trees,
to distant forests deep and dense,
teasing the waving grasses,
while coquettishly inflaming every sense.

Listen! For the murmurs whisper to us all,

listen carefully,
as the whispers recall,
the crushed memories of the lovers’ call.

Listen!
For the whispering leaf shares,
a story that may travel,

to you, to me,
if we still our minds,

and,

gaze upon each leaf,
and quietly marvel.

So, if you want to really know,
what a mother’s agonised scream sounds like,

take a walk in Gaza today,

she will bear her broken heart,
as she bore the coffin that held her 11 month old child’s body,
as it lay lifelessly broken and torn apart.

The mother screams in anger and in pain,
her howls and shrieks echo on the bloodied plain,

so take a walk in Gaza today,

and feel the rage that a mother nurses,
and bear the brunt of a mother’s curses.

You see, she laid her little baby in the cold, blood-soaked ground,

while you diplomats and peacemakers and politicians were buzzing around,

so stop buzzing,

and take a walk in Gaza today,

and for once,

for once,
listen to what a mother has to say,

“they’ve rained down death on us for years,
they’ve torched our olive groves while you have shut your collective ears,

they’ve killed our children over and over and over again,
and we’ve cried oceans of tears that have disappeared down the drain,

so tell me as I cradle my dead baby in my hand,

who gives a damn?”.

This is what you will hear when you walk in Gaza today.

It is what you have heard for years and years now,

and all I can think as I write these words is ‘how?’,

how could you fail,
you peacemakers and diplomats and politicians,

how could you fail the mothers of Gaza,
over and over and over again,

is it because Gaza’s mothers’ tears are forgotten,

because they simply disappear down the drain.

And how can you not stem that ocean of tears,

cried by countless mothers,
and fathers,
and children whose eyes are blinded by inexpressible pain,
and whose days are haunted, not by phantoms,
but by living fears.

So can you take a walk in Gaza today?

and what possibly could you have to say?

to the numberless mothers who have cried oceans of tears,

again and again and again,

or are Gaza’s mothers’ tears forgotten,

because they simply disappear down the drain.


(for the people of Gaza and the Occupied Territories)

to see…

the clarity of beauty between the murky folds of life

to see…

the simple truths of living
between the horror and the endless strike

to see…

the innocent smiles of the children at play
while the elder preach hate and division and continue to slay

to see…

the endless yearning for that simpler better place
away from the hollow emptiness of this ostentatious space

to see…

the open vistas of this pale blue dot
the soft reds and fruity greens as this home is all we have got

to see…

the tears of the dispossessed who have been cruelly cast aside
and while we look the other way from their tears we may never hide

to see…

the endless hunger and despair and killing and greed
in the name of God or of ideology or of some or the other creed

to see…

and to see it all

and still stand tall

to hold on to the humanity

that resides deep within us all

may be our only saving grace

and though all of this sounds quaint and saccharine sweet

I need to remember all that I’ve said

the next time I look into a teary-eyed desolate face

to see…

that being human is simple if we only look beyond ourselves and see

that we are all one, him and her and them and us and you and me…

it seeps in through gradual osmosis

and soon is ingrained in pliant minds

it mutates and thrives in tunnels of vision

and then is fused into the fiber of unreason

the quiet hypocrisy that drips of the tongues

spouting broken words of unfathomable callousness

the mutilated reeking carcass of cynicism

obscured by the veneer of polished discourse

stinks of inaction and of insipid rationalization

the probing and prodding and splintering of each thought

curdles the shallow layer of feeling

interring the basic simple and only humanity

that is gleefully ripped into isolated fragments

the quiet hypocrisy of battles fought and of causes embraced

is plain to see in the faces of the earnest

as they cling onto their bitter loathsome prejudices

whilst buying redemption under a placard of well-meaning

the quiet hypocrisy of these selective battles waged under the flimsy pretense of caring

stinks to the highest heaven promised in mantras and duas and prayers and chants

as the spectacle of the apartheid within the mind is worn on each tailored sleeve

the choosing of these battles in the name of faith and clung onto simply because of a common creed

is a pathetic spectacle of segregated thought

buried under the folds of righteous bluster

so before you jump on that bandwagon of indignation because ‘your’ people are in pain

take a look at the hidden fascism that simmers just below your holier-than-thou sudden spurt of heartfelt rage

for the quiet hypocrisy that is unknowingly imbibed

is apparent for all to behold

for when the ‘other’ endure the injustice carried out in ‘your’ peoples’ name

you stand mute and silently complicit for your indignation simply melts away

as the quiet hypocrisy that is firmly rooted in you

exults in pious pretences while ‘your’ own continue to hate, rape, pillage and slay

it saddens me that so much vitriol drips off my pen in such effervescent times

but I cringe as each moment another quiet hypocrite rants about the despotism of the ‘other’

while smiling complacently and smugly and soaking in the quiet hypocrisy of remaining mute about ‘my’ peoples’ own crimes

I want to walk with you with our heads held high

Never cowering, never with heads bowed

With our feet on this blessed soil, and our dreams reaching for the sky

 

Dreams of simple joys and of peace and of mirth

For all our fellow travelers on this delightful earth

 

Dreams not of wealth or of positions of high standing or of mighty power

Simple dreams of a walk in the aftermath of a Johannesburg evening rain-shower

 

Dreams of bread and water and dignity and shelter and clothes for all

Dreams where all fellow travelers may together walk this earth proud and tall

 

I want to walk with you, my fellow traveler, with our heads held high

Never pandering to power, never silent in the face of its abuse

Always firm in our convictions that we can all make peace if we only try

 

If we try to stop and think and sometimes not to look the other way

If we practice what our different creeds really teach, we will surely see that day

 

When we all, fellow travelers may walk with our heads held high

Never cowering, never with our heads bowed

With our feet on this blessed soil, and our collective dreams reaching for the sky

 

Call me silly, call me naive, call me hopeless, and if you must, call me weak

But is this not the common good that our different creeds and cultures all seek?