For The Wives Of Sondelani Poem by Sarah Mkhonza

For The Wives Of Sondelani

'We the wives of Sondelani,
declare we will wear mourning
clothes, ' they say on a rented
page in classifications that
put them out to be speakers.

The black clothes of mourning
cannot surely be the cover
of these women who sit here.
Solemn they are about the death
of Sondelani.

As his name calls to all of us,
to come and hear the story of
the widows of the man whose
passing has them sitting here.

They have to sit and be respectful,
to the one who has left them in this
space, where they march in single file,
as the wives of Sondelani.

Sondelani once owned a bus,
Once his name was out there.
If big, it was bigger than the clouds,
for his purse was also full.

'We the wives of Sondelani,
declare in mourning clothes
black, we will mourn him for
the clan says we must.'

These widows in the dark of death,
and the dark of black clothes,
have sworn allegiance, to follow
Sondelani, as his and stand as his.

This loyalty to the dead, speaks volumes,
that roar in rivers and rivulets.
'I was his, as these black clothes state.'
'Me, too, I was his, ' says the second wife.
Who does not say words like this in sorrow,
When women mourn a man.

I look again at the paper. Where were they
when they took the picture, that puts them
here in the face of everybody? This wisdom
to speak out, tells a long story.

I long to know what it is about.
I long to know stories of widows,
who walk the land in black,
and live to tell what happened
after they were so clothed.

Maybe some cried, till they almost
fell into the grave. Some cried for
sure, remembering the tree
they climbed the day they married
him, these wives of Sondelani.

I love their faces, but wonder if
they have done the rest of the things,
that are about getting what you have to,
and then show your face as a wife.

These claims are many. The land teems
with widows. Some much younger than these.
For the death that walks around, biting
everybody like a silent mamba, strikes
at dawn, and also at night, like the
biblical thief.

As people line up to bury each other,
the widows sit at the end of the journey,
of a loved one reliving the story,
of what brought them here.

Wives of Sondelani, you call us to come,
close and hear, what your husband
said when he asked you to follow his name,
and come close to his mystery.

Death has told you to come here,
Death has no voice, but the power
of actions. For it forces women to
dress up and speak in papers.

Death writes the obituary,
where six women line up,
and declare to have been
the wives of Sondelani.

The nation now knows,
what they have declared.
The nation has seen the
cries on the face of the paper,
Now we go and end the story,
of this bus owner with respect.
As the wives call us, to come
and see what they will say,
these days where we mourn
in the classifieds.

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Topic(s) of this poem: life,death
There was a picture of the bus owner's wives when he died. I am reliving looking at it after years and wonder, what widowhood means in Swaziland. I respect what they did, but I feel it raised more questions than answers.
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