Old Mrs Masuku’s a mealie cob vendor
Down at the gates of the new football ground,
(Order by phone, I’ll give you her number) ,
Where customers come and stand all around
Near the rusty old drum fired up daily at dawn,
Some coming to buy, some just to keep warm.
Each pip must, she says, leave sweet milk on her nail
When bought from the market not one hour before
And pressed with her thumb, not dented or stale.
So choose your own breakfast, it won’t cost you more,
Then five or ten minutes baked golden and cream,
Khangela! they’re ready and fit for a queen.
She told me one time, when I found her alone,
How two daughters had married and both died of AIDS,
Leaving seven grandchildren, two more of her own
With no prospects at all, but as gardeners or maids;
And resolved there and then with steel in her eye,
To put them through school; to help them or die.
Sometimes in winter when fingers near freeze
And pancake with lemon is such a commotion,
Hot mealies in hand are simply a breeze,
And Mama Masuku’s are poems in motion.
My kids eat two each with best margerine;
Won’t you help us support her resolute dream?
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.