Mafika Pascal Gwala

Mafika Pascal Gwala Poems


Rough, wet winds
parch my agonised face
as if salting the wound of
unbandage strip by strip
the dressings of Hope;
I wade my senses
through the mist;
I am still surviving
the traumas of my raped soil
alive and aware;
truths jump like a cat leaps for fish
at my mind;
I plod along
into the vortex
of a clear-borne dawn


Nonti Nzimande died long, long ago
Yet his children still live.
Generation after generation, they live on;
Death comes to the children of Nonti
And the children of Nonti cry but won't panic
And there is survival in the children of Nonti.

Poverty swoops its deathly wings. But tough,
Strong and witty are the children of Nonti.
The wet rains fall. The roads become like
The marshed rice paddies of the Far East;
And on these desolate roads there is song
Song in the Black voices of the children of Nonti.

Someone marries
The bride does not hide her face under the veil;
The maidens dance near the kraal
Dance before the ‘make it be merry' eyes
Of the elders. The elders joshing it
On their young days.
There is still free laughter
In the children of Nonti.

An ox drops to the earth, then another;
Knives run into the meat. Making the feast
To be bloodfilled with Life.
The old, the dead, are brought into the Present
Of continuous nature in the children of Nonti.
Got to be a respecting with the children of Nonti.

When a daughter has brought shame
The women show anger; not wrath.
And the illegitimate born is one of
The family.
When a son is charged by the white law
The children of Nonti bring their heads together
In a bid to free one of the children of Nonti.

There are no sixes and nines be one
With the children of Nonti. Truth is truth
And lies are lies amongst the children of Nonti.
For when the summer takes its place after the winter
The children of Nonti rejoice
And call it proof of Truth
Truth reigns among the children of Nonti.

Sometimes a son rises above the others
Of the children of Nonti. He explains the workings
And the trappings of white thinking.
The elders debate;
And add to the abounding knowledge
Of black experience.
The son is still one of the black children of Nonti
For there is oneness in the children of Nonti.

And later, later when the sun
Is like forever down;
Later when the dark rules
Above the light of Truth
The black children of Nonti will rise and speak.
They will speak of the time
When Nonti lived in peace with his children;
Of the times when age did not count
Above experience. The children of Nonti will stand
Their grounds in the way that Nonti speared his foes
To free his black brothers from death and woes;
They shall fight with a tightened grip
Of a cornered pard. For they shall be knowing that
Nothing is more vital than standing up
For the Truths that Nonti lived for.
Then shall there be Freedom in that stand
By the children of Nonti.
Truthful tales shall be told
Of how the children of Nonti pushed their will;
And continued to live by the peace
The peace that Nonti once taught to them.


I looked back
I went through my pockets
Not there.

They bit into my flesh (handcuffs).

Came the kwela-kwela
We crawled in.
The young men sang.
In that dark moment

It all became familiar.


And you once asked why
live so fast
love so fast
drink so fast
die so fast
It doesn't start with eMalangeni;
It doesn't.
It starts with the number
you found smeared on the door
of your home
- and you from school
- or from work.

one and two
three and four

The cement smile
of the teller at the bank
adopted as symbol of courtesy:
work and save
wear smart
get yourself a hi-fi/tv
buy yourself a car!

one and two
three and four

At Webber's I saw him
running like mad
on a futile marathon
after he'd grabbed a bag
from that farmer
who pronounced "Mophela"
like "amaphela".

I saw her pulling up her pantyhose
fixing her semi-Afrowig
With a blue eye and spitting blood
after a fight with another
of Playboy Joe's girls';
Playboy Joe was already at Umgababa
pulling dagga zol with other majitas,
And at Umgababa Alice's Juba
wasn't sour this afternoon.
one and two
three and four

I saw him wave an Okapi
under the Umnqadodo Bridge
to settle scores born of a factory life;
Umgababa's guava tree broke
The guava fruit projectiled
onto Duma's car:

Hammarsdale 1972.

The knife wound gave the telling of his death.
They covered his body with a Spinlon dustcoat
Waiting for someone to ring Inchanga 41.

one and two
three and four

Langashona's hand against his face
A face long dead to wind the story;
A flower plucked off in bud
Msingi's expressionless face
A face not squealing.
Bongi Ndlovu
She tried to run, to flee, to plead;
Which! Whack!
Into flesh came the bushknife
On the sand dunes she collapsed
Waiting for fate to say it's over;
How she let her soul go
is a mystery to bemoan;
Can we blame her kind of life?
Can we blame the rage that held him
in spell?
If we are not saints
They'll try to make us devils;
If we refuse to be devils
They'll want to turn us into robots.
When criminal investigators
are becoming salesmen
When saints are ceasing to be saints
When devils are running back to Hell
It's the Moment of Rise or Crawl
When this place becomes Mpumalanga
With the sun refusing to rise
When we fear our blackness
When we shun our anger
When we hate our virtues
When we don't trust our smiles.

one and two
three and four

Sing, how can we sing
with chainblocks barring us
the Malombo Sound?
Play, how can we play
with games turning into nightmares?
Talk, should we not talk with deep open voices?
Wait, should we wait till the cows come home?

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