Tag Archives: Africa

Off the Wall on 9 March 2015 – THE HAND THAT LEFT THE PUPPET GASPING

If all goes well, I’ll be reading at Off the Wall in Observatory’s A Touch of Madness bar and restaurant here in Cape Town. One of the poems I intend to read is “The Man Who Wished He was Lego” which appeared in Sixfold. I shared a link to that in an earlier post. But for those who missed it, HERE IT IS AGAIN.

I’m hoping not to make the audience fall asleep. Well, an audience would be nice to have in the first place. So if you are in Cape Town or plan to have a weird night on Monday, come on over. 🙂

I’m also going to read work included in the recently released NEW COIN POETRY bumper issue. If you ever read contemporary poetry, this journal has got to be on your list. Convince your local library to subscribe to NEW COIN POETRY (check them out on Facebook).

cover with hand

Hmmm wait, might as well post the poem here for lazy readers who cannot even click to a link. haha.

-o-

The Man Who Wished He was Lego

His hands would be yellow
and forever curved
into a semi-square “C.”
Designed only for quick
and easy snapping

of pieces meant
to fit. His shoes
would be the same color
as his pants with no zips
or buttons, no pockets

for slipping in notes
that could be shredded
in the wash. He would need
not worry about the shape
of his head, or haircuts

and thoughts for that matter.
And best of all, his chest
would be stiff and hollow,
far too small
for a heart.

-o-

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The Breath of Sparrows… for Madiba

Mandela from wikimedia commons
The Breath of Sparrows
for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

So it has arrived, the news
of your departure. Last night
I dreamt I was in the house
of my mentor, as a frequent guest
who took a desk by the window.

A towering tree with red
and yellow flowers as big as hands,
the breeze slipping between each
petal finger. I went to his room
to ask the name of that tree.

He lay on his bed, resting
with eyes closed but aware
of the birds weighing down
the branches, leaves caressing
the roof. The breath of sparrows

like his own. There was no need to name
the tree, no need to name anything
at all at that moment. I bid him thanks
before leaving, my footsteps drowning
in sparrow wings.

-o-


Vampires that do not Fear the Light

Read two articles from the Mail & Guardian online that should scare all those who think international law can protect sovereign countries and their population from a special breed of Vampires.

-o-

Mbeki: We should learn from Libya’s experiences

Recent events in Libya should raise alarm bells about the threat to Africa’s hard won right to self-determination, former president Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday.

Addressing the Law Society of the Northern Provinces in Sun City, Mbeki said it “seemed obvious” that a few powerful countries were seeking to use the council to pursue their selfish interests.

They were also determined to behave according to the principle and practice that “might is right” and to sideline the principle of self-determination.

“I must state this categorically that those who have sought to manufacture a particular outcome out of the conflict in Libya have propagated a poisonous canard aimed at discrediting African and African Union (AU) opposition to the Libyan debacle.”

He said this was done on the basis that the AU and the rest of “us” had been “bought by Colonel Gadaffi with petro-dollars”, and felt obliged to defend his continued misrule.

He said all known means of disinformation was being bandied about, included an argument that Gadaffi’s Libya had supported the ANC during the apartheid struggle.

“The incontrovertible fact is that during this whole period, Libya did not give the ANC [African National Congress] even one cent, did not train even one of our military combatants and did not supply us with even one bullet…

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE.

-o-

West rushes to grab its Libya reward

Britain’s new defence secretary, Philip Hammon, announced that British companies should “pack their suitcases” and head to Libya to snap up lucrative reconstruction contracts.

It all sounds disturbingly familiar. Think of the American companies streaming into Iraq to aid the “reconstruction effort” after the invasion. If there was any doubt, this modus operandi may soon define what seems no more than a new form of neocolonialism in the Middle East. American, Nato (or both) armies will destroy your country under the guise of ushering in democracy, and Western companies will assume the lion’s share of contracts to build it up again.

And with Libya’s National Transitional Council having already announced it would “reward” those countries that were in its corner during the “revolution”, it’s anyone’s guess who will be the biggest of the war profiteers.

Whereas in the past Gaddafi’s Libya was only dealing with China, Russia and Italy, the playing field has now been levelled, in a manner of speaking. Though it has portrayed itself as having had only a “back-room” role in toppling Gaddafi, the United States wants to be the number-one oil buyer from Libya, to compensate for its decades of deprivation of Libyan oil. There can be no doubt that in due course we will see that the US will want a far bigger cut of Libyan oil supplies than it is currently letting on.

It will be said in the future that the end justified the means: the removal of a hated dictator who terrorised his own people for four decades. This may be so, and nobody in their right mind could endorse what the colonel did to Libya. But there are some questions to be asked about the selective morality at play here.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE.

-o-

Please proceed to the nearest toilet to throw up.  Now pull yourself together and fight the propaganda machine of these Vampires.


Global Wake-Up Call

Today I called President Jacob Zuma’s Office – yep, I did! – as part of the international action called the Global Wake-Up Call, asking leaders to commit to go to the Copenhagen climate meeting in December and agree on a global climate deal that is FAIR, AMBITIOUS and BINDING (“FAB”)

Hey, it wasn’t that hard to gather up courage to get hold of a political leader — or at least the switchboard/secretary… ok, grim thoughts going to the laughing bin.

The staff at the Water and Environmental Ministry seemed more clued up though – thankfully – and said they welcomed this campaign.


The Whistle that Became a Memory

sky-river-mountains

Photo by Ze Boss

(Day Three – Maybe)

The path has been winding through the lowest levels of the Cederberg valley for about an hour.  We are close to the river that grows loud when it meets up with rocks, boulders, low waterfalls.  It murmurs and almost goes silent where the water is deep.  But it is there.  We know it by the scent in the air even as the midsummer heat batters us.

While we take careful steps on stone and loose ground a cool breeze takes up a few dry leaves.  I look up.  Mountains surround us on all sides, but they do not oppress us or make us feel we could go no further.  I gather they are not much different from the time the first settlers broke the first rock some hundred years ago.  Or even before the first nomadic tribes set foot on a slab of sandstone.

The sky is a blue so intense it makes you want to take a deep breath.

Without realizing it I find myself whistling as I exhale.  It is almost instinctive, releasing this long, extended whistle of three linked notes.  And I am struck by something from the distant past, like a ghost had appeared.  My children must have sensed it.  I force a smile.  I tell them it is a tune a friend of mine shared when we were kids.

They ask me to repeat it so they could mimic the tune.  But the sound they make comes from their little throats, not their lungs and lips.  Imagine a steam train on its last voyage.  They make us all laugh.  They try and try until the novelty wears off.

The trail is not signposted.  We struggle to keep to it.  We have to be careful not to make new trails that could lead other hikers after us astray.  The sound of the river grows and wanes, but it is always there.

The melody of that whistle haunts me.  It has travelled from a cramped childhood in Southeast Asia all the way to vast African skies, a journey halfway across the world.

I cannot recall when I first whistled that tune.  But I clearly remember the friend who made it up with me.  His name is Toto.  I should say his name was Toto.  But that puts an invisible weight on me.

I met Toto when my family moved out of the huge communal house we were sharing with my cousins.  The correct term to explain how close my cousins were to me and my sisters would be “pinsang buo” or roughly “tightly bound cousins.”  My father’s elder sister married my mother’s elder brother.  Sounds strange as I say it now.  I was eight and it made perfect sense then.  There are many stories from that time.  But those are for another day.

From being surrounded by numerous cousins (I am still unsure what the total number was, but 14 was the minimum I counted in my head) it felt strange to be standing outside our new house without seeing another kid my age.  It was a new suburb and there were only a handful of houses around.  The land was once a ricefield.  There were still some farmers on the outskirts, but they slowly vanished through the years.  Concrete replaced narrow mud paths.

Then Toto became my friend.  He must have been two years older than me.  We made up the whistle of three notes as a way to call each other at the hottest time of day when everyone was having a siesta.  I would creep out of the house, climb the guava tree that stood right next to our low, concrete wall that had metal spikes.

As soon as Toto saw me, he’d grab the vertical metal bars on the wall and pull himself up and over those spikes.  Then we’d be as far up the guava tree as we could go.  Those lean branches were stronger than they ever looked.

In time we used our whistle to greet each other in the morning.  He went to school early, at the crack of dawn.  He would whistle as he left his house.  And I would respond.  We kept responding to each other until he got too far for me to hear, or until he had caught a jeepney ride to school.

Many years later it came as a shock to me when my sister mentioned his name again.  I had been away from the country for a long time.  She said he had died.  Fell off a building at a construction site.  Left a wife and kid.

There are many moments in between all this begging to be remembered.  One day perhaps I will find them writing themselves out the way this one did.

Now I make that simple melody linger before I let it burst free out of my lips.  My kids find it entrancing.  The African sky is an intense blue, not a cloud in sight.  We follow the path as best we can.

-o-