Tag Archive: poetry


my poem below has been published in an anthology of poems by Myesha Jenkins. 

The launch of the book takes place in Johannesburg on Sunday May 28 at The Orbit.

the following poem of mine appears in the book …

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’

            ______________


http://www.sahistory.org.za/place/sophiatown
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophiatown

our shared shore 

​our shared shore.




1.




awaiting the coming in of the tide,


scurrying into the empty shells in which we hide,


safe for now from the flood that spews coarse lies,


sharing our breaths as the waves ebb and rise.




2.




ah! but to know the intricate bond that seals us from what may be in store,


to be free to cast off the many masks we wore,



free at long last!



free to grasp the peace and love of our shared shore.

time to hope …

time to

still the exhausted mind,

time to 

lay famished emotions to rest,

time to 

salve the wounds of the day,

time to 

reserve the tears we weep,

time to 

let detritus of day sleep,

time to

dream of even the faintest light,
time to halt hope’s threatening flight.

time to hope …

belonging

​alone in the throng,

sifting through the detritus of torn yesterdays,


thoughts weave,


ever searching,

to belong.

a gentler way

​through mists of many a forgotten yesterday,


the never-ending longing sighs for a vanished past.




what becomes of new tomorrows?

what remains of inert today?



while we remain shackled by nostalgia,


searching,


ever searching,


for that other, hopefully gentler way.

​faded afternoons

silhouetted fragmented shades,

mingle deep in folds of thought.



dreams wander,

soaring above melancholy,

as afternoon fades.

masks …

Fingers,

clawing at my face,

slipping beneath the facade,
tugging, tearing, flailing,
stripping off the veneer,

exposing the fragmented decay,

cloaked,

under this mask I wear today.
Hands,

groping for another layer,

embroidered on my thin skin,
peeling, rotting, searing,
shaving away the truths,

entwined in a jagged kiss,

revealing,

the vacuum of an emotional abyss.
Fleeing,

from myself yet again,

bound for nothingness,
desolate, cold, empty,
lost on barren pathways,

bruising my heart as I tread,

shuddering,

at the horrors that lie ahead

Hardly a Poem




Splinters embedded under my skin,

each memory a shard of stinging glass,

I see that I see it all now,

the infinite regrets meandering,

down foggy alleys of yesteryear,

as decades and moments come to pass.



Wearing my many masks as I cascade,

leafing through my conscious betrayals,

of gentle hearts once treasured,

now left to decay, in the empty cold.



Seeing my treasures turned to stone,

while wearing the blues like a convenient coat,

untrue to most, I stand accused,

in the dock, the fragments of my past,

are all that I am able to hold.



Where do I go from here,

as I stand ashamed, rooted to this spot,

my sins are countless, my excuses fickle,

the lies have been many,

and all the untruths have already been told.



Was it not just a fortnight ago,

when I was younger than I am now,

you loved me completely, you told me so,

while I slithered inside my thick skin,

shutting you out,

and embraced comforting desolation into my fold.



Now the momentary tears have all been shed,

the wounds of time too, have silently bled,

and all beseeching prayers have been said.



I stagger on, my reflection a mirage,

my heart and soul battered black and blue,

still, grasping onto the tendrils of hope,


if not, then I am truly dead.






you had a dream, of pastures of peace,

where children of all hues mingled like rainbows.




they silenced you, but your voice

resounds now,

in pastures not yet of peace,


your dream still a dream,

a dream dreamt as others slept.




you said that you had been to the mountain-top,

and they silenced your voice as you saw that promised land,

of pastures of peace,

where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.




today your dream is glimpsed in pastures,

not yet of peace,

for though they silenced your voice,

your spirit!

your spirit their bullets could never tear apart,

your spirit, like your dream,

mingling in the winds in all those pastures,


not yet of peace.




and till we give life to your dream,

those pastures of peace, where children of all hues mingle like rainbows,

shall remain only your dream.




we remember you today,

pledging that those pastures of peace

are nourished,

in each of us,


for only then will your dream take root,

blossoming into our common, shared dream,

the view from the mountain-top,

for then, your dream radiant and bright and full of hope shall seem,


where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.









​a true story …




my mother used tell me this with tears in her eyes.



my mother left South Africa in the 1960’s to join my father who was in political exile at the time in Tanzania. 



in 1970 my father was deployed by the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) to India to be its Chief-Representative there.


I was born in New Delhi a couple of years later in ’72.



my mother and father spent two years in Mumbai (then Bombay).



one afternoon my father fell and broke his leg.



my mother knocked on their neighbour’s door of the apartment complex where they lived. 



the neighbour was an elderly Punjabi lady.



my mother asked the elderly lady for assistance in calling a doctor to see to my injured father. 



a Zoroastrian (Parsi) ‘bone-setter’ was promptly summoned.



my mother and the elderly neighbour got to talking and the lady asked my mother where they were from, as their accents were clearly not local.



my mother told the elderly Punjabi lady that my father worked for the African National Congress of South Africa and had been forced into exile to continue to struggle to raise awareness internationally about the appalling situation in Apartheid South Africa.



my mother also mentioned that they had to leave their two young children (my siblings, whom I met only later in life) behind in South Africa, in the care of grandparents, and that they were now essentially political refugees.



the elderly lady broke down and wept uncontrollably.



she told my mother that she too had to leave their home in Lahore in 1947 and flee to India with only the clothes on their back when the partition of the subcontinent took place and when Pakistan was torn from India and formed, due to narrow religious and sectarian reasons, whose repercussions are felt to this day.



this was also a time when religious violence wreaked havoc, and untold suffering and death for millions of human beings.



the elderly lady then asked my mother what her name was.



‘Zubeida’, but you can call me ‘Zubie’.



the Punjabi woman hugged Zubeida some more, and the two women, seperated by age and geography, by religion and all the things that seek to divide humanity,  wept, for they could understand the pain and trauma of a shared experience.



the elderly Punjabi lady told my mother that she was her ‘sister’ from that day on, and that she too felt the pain of exile after being forced to become refugees, and what being a refugee felt like.



Zubie and her husband Mosie (my father) and the family next door became the closest of friends.



then came the time for Mosie and Zubie to leave for Delhi where the African National Congress (ANC) office was to be officially opened.



the elderly Punjabi lady and Mosie and Zubie said their goodbyes.



a year or two later, the elderly lady’s daughter Lata married Ravi Sethi and the couple moved to Delhi.



the elderly lady telephoned Zubie and told her that her daughter was coming to Delhi to live there, and that she had told Lata, her daughter that she had a ‘sister’ in Delhi, and that she should not feel alone.



Lata and Ravi Sethi then moved to Delhi in the mid-1970’s.



Lata and Zubie became the closest of friends and that bond stayed true, till the both my mother passed away in 2008. 



my father and I still feel a close bond with Lata and Ravi Sethi, and vice versa. 



a bond that was forged between Hindu and Muslim and between two countries of South Africa and of India, shattering the barriers of creed and of time.



a bond strong and resilient, forged by the pain and trauma of a shared experience.



that is why I shall never stop believing that hope shines still, for with so much religious bigotry almost consuming our world today, there will always be a woman, somewhere, anywhere, who would take the ‘other’ in as a sister, and as a fellow human being.



and that is why, I believe, that there will always be hope.



hope in the midst of unbearable pain and hope in the midst of loss and of unspeakable suffering.



hope.
for we can never give up hope for a better world.


never.








(for aunty Lata’s late-mother, my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi, India)

​etched deep, scratching at the core of my mind,


the conceit of wordiness so easy to find.




so many wasted moments, so much squandered time,


spent idly on shoddy verse,


and vainly on banal rhyme.

for compassion



hate like toxic venom flows, spewed forth in dribs and drabs,


how will wounds ever heal, with such vitriol tearing at the scabs.




we shudder at the words of hate, dejected at times, wondering if they ever will cease,


though hoping for a wellspring of love, respect, of uBuntu*, 


just awaiting release.




so hope springs forth for we know it begins,

within us,

now,


today,


with simple acts of compassion,


that may just, 


just,


banish hate away.






* – uBuntu is an isiXhosa/isiZulu concept that espouses the “belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”



I want to walk with you


 


i want to walk with you with heads held high,

not cowering, never bowed,

with our feet on this earth,

our dreams reaching for the sky.




dreams of peace, of mirth,

for all travellers on this, our earth.

 



dreams not of wealth, of power,

simple dreams of walks after a gentle rain shower.



 

dreams of bread, water, dignity, shelter, clothes for all,

dreams where all may walk this earth proud and tall.



 

i want to walk with you, my fellow traveller, with our heads held high,


not pandering to power, never silent in the face of its abuse,


firm in our convictions that a better world is possible, if a humane path is what we choose,
when all may walk with heads held high,

not cowering, heads never bowed,

our common dreams reaching for the sky.


 


call me silly, call me naive, call me hopeless, call me weak,


but is this not the common good,


that all creeds, and all cultures seek?


footsteps

footsteps tread gravel paths,

buoyed by vistas new,

bidding trodden avenues adieu.



gravel crunches, ever onwards,

to destinations fresh as dew,


to places beyond fear,

beyond despair,

beyond empty shells of longing,

beyond mirages of hollow belonging.



the paths taken, fraught with twists,

promises new morns, thawing trepidation,

fear melts into approaching night,

resting in the solace of dawn’s soothing light.



the paths seem endless,


yet,

the heart traverses the mire,

the traveller reaches deep within,

to clothe naked gloom,

embracing hope,


to be finally enveloped by its warm cloak.



footsteps … … …

today


embrace all that is today,


imbibe all that this moment showers,


hold on tightly to the fleeting whispers,


of a mirage of wild country flowers,


for who knows what tomorrow may bring,


who knows tomorrow’s design,


so greet today with open arms,


for today, to sorrow,


we refuse to resign





nostalgic threads woven into the fabric of my mind,


i find patterns of familiar distant memories,


seamless strands of faraway laughter

embroidered into the folds of my thoughts.



the solace of my mother’s embrace,

the stubble of my father’s cheek,


the generosity of those 

who could give only of themselves,

yet gave all.



these nostalgic threads

remain woven,


deep in the recesses of my mind,


they caress me on days that are dark and shallow,


they whisper their silent thoughts of love,

caressing my waking days

and lulling my nights, so often hollow.



so i remain indebted 

to each nostalgic thread,


as hope fills the void,


and infuses time with light,


dispelling all approaching dread




a peace within

​shallow words etched in haste,


cast shadows on softly ebbing days,


merely forlorn words that seem but a banal waste.




ah! but to hear them murmuring, in a hushed tone,


sinking deep,

is to embrace the madness within,



and to hear them whispering in the ripples of the waves,


is to surrender in silence,


far, far away,

from the endless drone.

sliver of hope

​empty spaces consumed,

by thoughts of nothingness.


the torment,

the twisted pain,

lash like cold slicing rain.


not much do we ask for,

just one peek,

a ray of light,


a sliver of hope,


is what we seek.

belonging 

1.


​drifting alone in the throng

sifting torn yesterdays

thoughts weave

ever searching

to belong.



2.


hidden between fragmented shades

mingling in the folds of thought

dreams ceaselessly wander on

soaring above today’s tumult

as this afternoon fades.

yesteryear 





memory slips,

                        slides,

cascades,

                 through the blurred veil of time,

        sifting through memories,

of you,

            your loveliness ablaze,

sweeping across meadows,

                  my stranded heart still in flames,

                 the furnace burning bright,

                          raging in the darkness of this night,

                  coaxing nostalgic yearning,

over years left behind,

             between thoughts of kisses entwined,

                 

                 and still,

                 and yet,

this heart may never forget,

           the caress of your voice,

breezing between today,

           last week,

all the drifting yesteryears,

                     lost in your deepest eyes,

even as days turn to night,

even as time continually flies,

scattering pieces of my soul,

              hither and thither,

             knowing it may never be, again,

whole,

           

ah! but the memories persist,

as summer begins to wither,

            you are all i remember you to be,

between the wild rose,

        amidst the thorns,

bathed in dawn’s dew,

I live,

        I breathe,

                        I savour,

the sweetest thoughts,

of you,


only you 

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