Sunday Poem

Heat and Sweat
(for sisters and brothers who may be weary)

so you keep looking back
if you did not listen when the past was breathing
the present erases your name
child don’t let laughter from insane strangers snatch our faces
the present is surprised at our songs
it is shocked that we still walk the streets the way we do
lost as we are
torn and bewildered by the sounds of our names
it is surprised that though the sight of our eyes staggers
and though the gait of our shadows seems to limp
we still put brick on brick and tell our children stories
so you keep looking back
even when the darkness is so thick it could touch your eyeballs
even when the darkness is such a huge space
ready with an insatiable thirst, swallowing, and even ready still to swallow
the last red drop that trickles still from your little heart,
don’t you hear the songs
they can live in the present if we let them
these songs have a prowess of our mother’s back
and the eloquence of our grandmother's foresight
about the time that never was
and the earth whose rhythm is an intoxicated dizziness
feel the wall while you walk and hold, hold
glue your eye into the distance and keep walking
move, child, move
if we don’t get there
nobody must . . .

by Mongane Wally Serote

from Behold Mama, Flowers
publisher: AD Donker, Johannesburg, 1978