Friday Poem

Giyani Block

When the sun recedes
into the Soutpansberg,
Giyani Block puts on a
black adder coat;
a mirror of death and despair.

Doctors and nurses stand on their feet.
They shall not rest when the workers’ strike
ignites its furious flame.
They’re on tiptoe, looking up,
wrestling the faceless, tailless monster.

Death’s whistle rings,
Death is a bosom friend here.
He walks like a dragon snake in the mountain.
In this house, Death is a burrowing mole;
he digs a hole in a life on the brink.
In this house, Death is a lion
with sharpened teeth, awaiting a rabbit.

Whether you are the most feared inyanga
with a calabash full of muti,
or a priest with the bible in hand,
whether strong as an iron-breaker or weak as an outcast,
whether handsome, shining like the sun
or beauteous, dancing with the stars,
Giyani Block remains a black sea
that wrecks our boats,
leaving no evidence or trace.
In Giyani Block heavens fall,
towers come to ruins,
flowers fade away.
Poor granny has joined ‘ngoma’:
who'll dance till the balls of his feet are bloodied,
his pride is but history.

Ncindhani, my neighbour, is feeble,
washed away like a rope.
His shoulders like a clothes hanger,
the blue arteries along his hands straight
as the strings of Juluka’s guitar;
his eyes are clouds of death,
deeply sunken like the sun falling
into the mouth of the horizon.
When he puts the hospital jacket away,
fleshless ribs and his amulet stand out
like rinderpest, a drought-stricken goat
by the stream.

by Vonani Bila
from In the Name of Amandla
Timbila Poetry Project, Elim, 2004