August 15, 2010

You ask me where the poems are

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 7:04 am


Ntozakhe Shange was one of the women writers that inspired The Matriarch

We have been begging the Matriarch of the Word, or as she also jokingly calls herself in Afrikaans, “die ou tannie van die woord”, to send us some of her poems for publication. Always, we received the same reply: NO. However, last week, as part of Women’s month in South Africa she sent us this gem, you ask me where the poems are. Having begged, i can only guess that this was written in response to my nagging, and I refrain to ask her when she wrote it. One more thing about the matriarch you may know, is this: she is a feminist, and has been for a long time, and she was an English School teacher, and anti Apartheid activist. Today she spends her time reading, writing, loving her children and grand-children. She also co-ordinates a feminist study circle. Who is she?


You ask me where the poems are

They lie with a thousand men in a field

Their souls torn to ribbons

Tangled in the boots of tormentors

Who fear their breaths escape to the sound of

La illah ha illillah

They hide in a cave

Listening to the drones and baby cutters

Explode barefooted children into

Particles of dust that settle in their mothers’ hair

They sit   in the market place

In a boy vendor’s basket of bread

Listening to his joyous song

Fill the air with silence

As morning turns to crimson dusk

The colour of death

They waft in the wind

Filled with mustard

Harvesting through streets and fields

Its share of limbs and lives

Today and forever

They crouch in the midst of hopes

And dreams of a noosed rainbow in a western sky

Hugging knees in airtight tins of steel

Tipped in ferries on open seas

From hunger to eternal stranglehold

Drifting towards self debasement of

Body and soul

Where are the poems you dare to ask

Buried with a brother who didn’t say


A mother whose silken threads of wisdom

Bind every word as it grafts beneath my skin

I scratch and scratch

The bloody poems ooze on to the page

Blot and die.


1 Comment »

  1. At least I think it was..Or maybe it was only a good enough poem…Its gone now ..vanished because of my laziness…It came in a dream but I was too tired ..and anyway I did not want to disturb ..the warm cocoon that sleep had fashioned around my bed ..put my feet on the cold floor turn on the search for paper and pen…So it slipped away this at least good enough poem that place where poems are kin to dreams ..leaving me only this sad attempt to record its absence…Someday perhaps it will come again in someone elses dream ..and they less lazy will write it down…If they do and it gets published I entitled to claim co-authorship?..Can I ask for a percentage of the royalties?..Why not? ..Did Frost write his poems or the poems of someone elses dreams?..And what about Yeats or Rilke or Sappho or Dickinson or Ferlinghetti?..Maybe all poems should be declared ..the common property of the dreaming soul…And maybe all the royalties should be deposited a secret Swiss bank account…That would be fine with me…Then I could make a withdrawal on those occasions ..when I am not so lazy…

    Comment by business daily — March 29, 2011 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

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