June 25, 2015

Another Miner dead

Filed under: poetry,Uncategorized — newritings @ 5:22 pm

Another miner dead

Nothing stopped

The price of platinum plummeted…not

Gold is a safe bet, the old men keep saying

We dig South Africa, Lonmin tried to slang-it,

But the worms refused to be fooled

as they slowly chew on the fresh flash of the recently dead

in a nondescript cemetery

with the bloody words engraved on the epitaph


Buried in different holes, they lay

Dug by the sweat of their rock-driller cousins

More than three “August years” gone, today

Yes, Farlam sits on the president’s desk

Ready to scalp the head of the Turk

The media is back to its old ways,

Chiming their same old kak-opine

Whilst the president rubs his bald head

and chuckles at the intelligent questions

from the clever blacks

another miner died today

it makes no ripples

but for those loyal pallbearers who return in weekly ritual

to sprinkle the water on the sand of the dearly departed

from dust through dust

to dust
(supposed aniversay of

stop press: zuma to release Farlam report at 7pm. 25 June 2015.


July 10, 2014

Waiting for the rain-dance (2july, johannesburg, south africa)

Filed under: poetry,Uncategorized — newritings @ 6:47 pm

Today I cried

…watering the cut-down Olive trees

of a far-away Palestinian village called Bedya

Defiant Stumps

Stand majestically tall

against the sores edged on the sharp blades of the robbers



Wounded Hope

… full branches of the olive leaves

reach out to even them

And Under a murderous dark sky





for the rain-dance of peace

that refuses to dawn

July 27, 2013

Down Abubaker Asvat drive

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 2:53 pm
The speakers lament
The slow pace of reform,
THE corrupt detours
And, illegal U-turns
After speaker
After speaker
 Conniving politicians
And delaying bureaucrats
Who gave them up-hill
In the struggle to  rename the link road to Dr Abu Asvat Drive
the peoples doctor took the road of
working with the poor amidst the thorns of poverty and hunger
the road less traveled
of unity of the oppressed
 and Black Solidarity
this path
eludes this teenage democracy
as hope and hardworking  gets lost
in the pot-holds of sectarian politics
in  the eTolls of our imagination
is it the rot they spoke of
or the pimples that we all must endure
 the smooth face of democracy appears?
the long march,
                        cross-crossing winds of anger and stifled freedom
“keep  your eye on the  prize´
´take it daily´
the good doctor advised
before they robbed him of
it takes time
but most of all, will:

poem by Hassen Lorgat

January 7, 2011

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

Filed under: poetry,testimonies — newritings @ 11:35 pm

by Audre Lorde

From Sister Outsider, The Crossing Press Feminist Series (1984)

I agreed to take part in a New York University Institute for the Humanities conference a year ago, with the understanding that I would be commenting upon papers dealing with the role of difference within the lives of American
women: difference of race, sexuality, class, and age. The absence of these considerations weakens any feminist discussion of the personal and the political.

It is a particular academic arrogance to assume any discussion of feminist theory without examining our many differences, and without a significant input from poor women, Black and Third World women, and lesbians. And yet, I stand here as a Black lesbian feminist, having been invited to comment within the only panel at this conference where the input of Black feminists and lesbians is represented. What this says about the vision of this conference is sad, in a country where racism, sexism, and homophobia are inseparable. To read this program is to assume that lesbian and Black women have nothing to say about existentialism, the erotic, women’s culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexuality and power. And what does it mean in personal and political terms when even the two Black women who did present here were literally found at the last hour? What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable.

The absence of any consideration of lesbian consciousness or the consciousness of Third World women leaves a serious gap within this conference and within the papers presented here. For example, in a paper on material relationships between women, I was conscious of an either/or model of nurturing which totally dismissed my knowledge as a Black lesbian. In this paper there was no examination of mutuality between women, no systems of shared support, no interdependence as exists between lesbians and women-identified women. Yet it is only in the patriarchal model of nurturance that women “who attempt to emancipate themselves pay perhaps too high a price for the results,” as this paper states.

For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. It is this real connection which is so feared by a patriarchal world. Only within a patriarchal structure is maternity the only social power open to women.

Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being.

Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.

Within the interdependence of mutual (nondominant) differences lies that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of knowledge and return with true visions of our future, along with the concomitant power to effect those changes which can bring that future into being. Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.

As women, we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change. Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression. But community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

Poor women and women of Color know there is a difference between the daily manifestations of marital slavery and prostitution because it is our daughters who line 42nd Street. If white American feminist theory need not deal with the differences between us, and the resulting difference in our oppressions, then how do you deal with the fact that the women who clean your houses and tend your children while you attend conferences on feminist theory are, for the most part, poor women and women of Color? What is the theory behind racist feminism?

In a world of possibility for us all, our personal visions help lay the groundwork for political action. The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.

Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names of Black feminists? And although the Black panelist’s paper ends on an important and powerful connection of love between women, what about interracial cooperation between feminists who don’t love each other?

In academic feminist circles, the answer to these questions is often, “We did not know who to ask.” But that is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out, that keeps Black women’s art out of women’s exhibitions, Black women’s work out of most feminist publications except for the occasional “Special Third World Women’s Issue,” and Black women’s texts off your reading lists. But as Adrienne Rich pointed out in a recent talk, white feminists have educated themselves about such an enormous amount over the past ten years, how come you haven’t also educated yourselves about Black women and the differences between us — white and Black — when it is key to our survival as a movement?

Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women — in the face of tremendous resistance — as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.

Simone de Beauvoir once said: “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting.”

Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.

Prospero, you are the master of, feminist and lesbian
Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(lied about the world, lied about me)
that you have ended by imposing on me
an image of myself.
underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That ís the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What’s more, it’s a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
and I know myself as well.
– Caliban, in Aime Cesaire’s “The Tempest”

September 20, 2010

Alice has fallen up the cosmic black hole

Filed under: poetry — newritings @ 9:07 pm

The Matriarch of the Word, this time, on listening Alice Walker at the 11th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture (September 7, 2010, State Theatre, Pretoria)

Alice has fallen up the cosmic black hole
the malaikas
to hear her ruminating about cows with sweet smelling breath and
Extolling the virtues of burgundy sofas
and the broken things she holds in her heart
Tenderising men and pitying women with fenced eyes
Waiting for razor edged stones and bloody demise
Unveiled judgement
Ah Alice your wonderland of purple
So deep and soul haunting turns into a
Cloudy   mauve miasma of
Grandmothers sipping tea
In a Burmese tea garden as
Aung San Suu Kyi
Meditates under a bullet ridden
saffron sun.
for change you savour under stars
striped with the oily haze
of millions on desert plains far far away.

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.

May 15, 2010

The flags

Filed under: poetry,re-creating — newritings @ 8:25 am

The flags

The flags

Oh Yes, The Flags

are flying again



is going to lose

March 19, 2010

Poem for a noble man: Vanunu

Filed under: opinion article,poetry — newritings @ 10:08 pm

Vanunu refuses to speak Hebrew. He lives alone, in east Jerusalem. Israeli Jewish society considers him a traitor. Only one member of his large family will speak to him. The Palestinians are friendly to him and often invite him into their homes, but he politely refuses, explaining that he can’t tell who is a collaborator and who isn’t. He knows the state is following him, and he knows there are many Palestinians who – for money or drugs or to keep the silence of a blackmailer – help the state. What he does all day, every day, is walk – “from the checkpoint to the wall, from the wall to the checkpoint.”


The popularity of the piece “Let’s inspect Dimona” has provoked some sharp responses. The latest two, see them, reflect the current debate between two opposing camps: those who see justice as indivisible and therefore Israel must be included in all inspections, and those who see Israel as an exception, a protector of Western values and democracy in a world that knows only lawlessness and terror. The questions often not asked by those who subscribe to this view, is whose lawlessness and terror exercised upon whom? The masses of Palestine inside Israel, and in Gaza and the West Bank have clear answers, if the powers that be really want to listen.

The editors of this blog really believe that Israel, 60 years trying to be a respected member of the world community, must subscribe to laws, policies and practices that guide all countries and not only those preserved for some. It is in part of a handful of countries that have weapons of mass destruction (others being Pakistan, India, France, United States of America, United Kingdom, Russia, China and North Korea) but Israel practices what the diplomatic community in Propaganda speak call Nuclear Ambiguity, not affirming or denying the existence of Nuclear warheads.

However, the world knows that it has them, long before Modechai Vanunu exposed this to public attention in the 1980’s. This honourable man took another giant step forward when he asked the beginning of this year that he be removed from the list of nominees for this year’s Nobel Peace prize. This was announced by the Nobel Institute Director Geir Lundestad, who said that the reasons given for the rejection were contained in a letter to them adding that: “The reason he gave was that Shimon Peres had received the Nobel Peace Prize, and Peres he alleged was the father of the Israeli atomic bomb and he did not want to be associated with Peres in any way.” (Haaretz, February24, 2010)

Often comparisons are drawn between Israel and Apartheid South Africa and very few commentators point out that South Africa not only turned its back on racist and Bantustan policies whilst Israel has not yet, but most importantly, South Africa voluntarily gave up its Nuclear potential and arms in the early 1990’s (no doubt, in part, concerned at the advent of a Black government) and thereby becoming the first nation in the world to do this.

It is also a signatory of the Biological Weapons Convention since 1975, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1991, and the Chemical Weapons Convention since 1995. So if South Africa can do it, why not Israel and all the other countries?

In response to our comments we reaffirm it is never too late to inspect DIMONA… and to end I have this little poem called DIMONA.

D __ Destrustive

I_ Israel




A­­_Agreements (on arms, etc.)



PS. To read a poem by Vanunu, go to his website.

August 9, 2009

Celebrating August 9- National Women’s Day in South Africa – a poem in solidarity

Filed under: poetry,re-creating,testimonies — newritings @ 7:44 pm


Today, we attended a community public meeting celebrating women and kamu (our son, aged 7) made his maiden speech celebrating the power of women. This took place in my home town Lenasia organized by Committed Friends and Women for Peace (they promise to write this up too). It was a truly “local and lekker affair” with chicken and veg breyani and song and dance all thrown in to pamper the mothers, sisters and those who are getting in touch with their feminist side. However in this post, I have the pleasure of using a poem sent to me by my Jamaican sister Staceyann Chin, who recently was in South Africa as part of the Urban Voices festival, organized by Southern Africa Arts Exchange. My personal contact and sharing with the whole group was amazing and i too have promised that i will write about it soon…
All Power to the Women!

Ode to a Broken Woman

survivor of wind and rain
what have you got to fear
now that you still breathing
after your father
and his fists
after his open hand laced with the poison
pumped into a thousand tiny girls screaming
silent in similar rooms

long after his lamp has gone out

you are still here
still walking
through the swamp of impossible memories
side-stepping towards the warped rhythm sliming
to poetry on your callused hands

Look up
at the bright light seeping
from your window of resolve
God is a song trapped inside your chest
breathe out

there is nothing to fear
but the ugly paralysis
of not moving
not doing what you have always done

the discomfort
of unexpected convection
will always provide
the current for your unconventional convictions

movement is how you have always danced
sing that low moan
for all those baby girls
hiding under steps
and falling unlucky from ladders
landing way too early into womanhood
sing it for me
and my mother and the midwife who delivered us both
bend all the way back
to the first time you discovered that love
could unfold itself
faithful from the kind hand of a white woman
obsessed with collecting things
and camping

Pull the kernel of laughter
from Chicago
and how you found the room
to giggle with your mother days after Barry White died

Find the connection
to those beautiful feet of yours
Step light right back into
the fight you already know
jump into the fracas of days frenzied with your fire
and your bullet sharp focus

Trust the same compass
that has brought you this far
release your fanged wings again
woman crouch
but only in preparation for the lunge
plunge one arm/shoulder deep into the swirling sky
break open the clouds that hang there
soar upwards
your silhouette rimmed with purpose and silver lightning
feel the frightened flesh fall away from you
funnel your face into the flight
show all the world watching
that a wounded phoenix
can still fly

If we do not speak, who will?


May 22, 2009

Hamba Kahle – comrade Benedetti

Filed under: poetry,some of my favorite things — newritings @ 9:47 pm

Uruguayan poet and writer of over 80 books, Mario Benedetti died on 17 May 2009, and he was my partner Marta’s favourite writer.

The 88 year old Benedetti of Italian parents was or will always be a legend as his poems were turned into songs, imortalising him whilst he was alive and it is likely to continue. He was deeply loved not only in his country but in the Spanish speaking world. Benedetti lived in exile from 1973-1983 during Uruguay’s military regime.

There is a brilliant tribute of the man and writer and the fact that he is seldom translated into english by Terence Clark on an equally  brilliant site:, where I borrowed this poem. (below)

The poet, Alicante 1998

The poet, Alicante 1998

Mario Benedetti

Me jode confesarlo
pero la vida es también un bandoneón
hay quien sostiene que lo toca dios
pero yo estoy seguro de que es Troilo
ya que dios apenas toca el arpa
y mal

fuere quien fuere lo cierto es
que nos estira en un solo ademán purísimo
y luego nos reduce de a poco a casi nada
y claro nos arranca confesiones
quejas que son clamores
vértebras de alegría
esperanzas que vuelven
como los hijos pródigos
y sobre todo como los estribillos

me jode confesarlo
porque lo cierto es que hoy en día
quieren ser tango
la natural tendencia
es a ser rumba o mambo o chachachá
o merengue o bolero o tal vez casino
en último caso valsecito o milonga
pasodoble jamás
pero cuando dios o Pichuco o quien sea
toma entre sus manos la vida bandoneón
y le sugiere que llore o regocije
uno siente el tremendo decoro de ser tango
y se deja cantar y ni se acuerda
que allá espera
el estuche.


I’m fucked, confessing it,
but life too is a bandoneón
there are some who hold that God plays it
but I’m sure that it’s Troilo
since God can hardly play the harp,
and that badly

whoever it is, the one sure thing is
that it stretches us out in a proper pure solo
and then brings us down to so little almost nothing
and for sure drags confessions from us
clamoring complaints
the vertebra of happiness
hopes that return like prodigal sons
and above all like refrains

I’m fucked confessing it
because for sure, right now, today
want to be tango
the natural tendency
is to be a rumba or mambo or chachachá
or merengue or bolero or maybe casino
and at the very last a little waltz or milonga,
and a pasadoble? never
but when God or Pichuco or whoever
takes in his hands the bandoneón life
and suggests to it that it weep or cheer
you feel the tremendous decorum of being tango
you just go ahead and sing and you would never agree
that there awaits
your casket.

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