1ENGLISH 2A: SOUTH AFRICAN POETRYFROM PROTESTTOPOST-APARTHEIDDate Topic Required ReadingMonday22 AprilTheBlackConsciousness Movementand Protest Poetry “What‟s in this Black „Shit‟” (Serote) “My Brothers in the Streets” (Serote)Friday26 AprilThe BlackConsciousness Movementand Protest Poetry “The Birth of Shaka” (Mtshali) “The Watchman‟s Blues” (Mtshali)Monday29 AprilPoetry ofthe Transition “Ummi” (Afrika) “Power Cut” (Afrika)Friday 3MayRevisionist Poetry “Our Sharpeville” (De Kok)Monday6 MayThe Truth andReconciliation Commission “For all Voices, For all Victims” (Krog)Friday10 MayRecent Poems “This is what I‟ll remember” (Baderoon) “Old photographs” (Baderoon)
2What’s in this Black ‘Shit’ (Mongane Serote)It is not the steaming little rotIn the toilet bucket,It is the upheaval of the bowelsBleeding and coming out through the mouthAnd swallowed back,Rolling in the mouth,Feeling its taste and wondering what‟s next like it.Now I‟m talking about this:„Shit‟ you hear an old woman say,Right there, squeezed in her little match-boxWith her fatness and gigantic life experienceWhich makes her a child,„Cause the next day she‟s right there,Right there serving tea to the womanWho‟s lying in bed at 10 a.m. sick with wealth,Which she‟s prepared to give her life for„Rather than you marry my son or daughter.‟This „Shit‟ can take the form of action:My youngest sister under the full weight of my fatherAnd her face colliding with his steel hand,„‟Cause she spilled sugar that I worked so hard for,‟He says, not feeling satisfied with the damage his handsDo to my yelling little sister.I‟m learning to pronounce this „Shit‟ wellSince the other dayAt the pass officeWhen I went to get employment,The officer there endorsed me to Middelburg,So I said, hard and with all my might, „Shit!‟I felt a little better;But what‟s good is, I said it in his face,A thing my father wouldn‟t dare do.That‟s what‟s in this black „Shit‟.My Brothers in the Streets (Mongane Serote)Oh you black boys,You thin shadows who emerge like a chill in the night,You whose heart-tearing footsteps sound in the night,My brothers in the streets,Who holiday in jails,Who rest in hospitals,Who smile at insults,Who fear the whites,Oh you black boys,You horde-waters that sweep over black pastures,You bloody bodies that dodge bullets,My brothers in the streets,Who booze and listen to records,Whove tasted rape of mothers and sisters,
3Who take alms from white hands,Who grab bread from black mouths,Oh you black boys,Who spill blood as easy as saying „Voetsek‟.Listen!Come my black brothers in the streets,Listen,Its black women who are crying.The Birth of Shaka (Oswald Mtshali)His baby crywas of a cubtearing the neckof the lionessbecause he was fatherless.The godsboiled his bloodin a clay pot of passionto course in his veins.His heart was shaped into an ox shieldto foil every foe.Ancestors forgedhis muscles intothongs as toughas wattle barkand nervesas sharp assyringa thorns.His eyes were lanternsthat shone from the dark valleys of Zululandto see white swallowscoming across the sea.His cry to two assassin brothers:"Lo! you can kill mebut youll never rule this land!"The Watchman’s Blues (Oswald Mtshali)High upin the loft of a skyscraperabove the penthouse of the potentatehe huddlesin his nest by day; by nighthe is an owl that descends,knobkierie in hand,to catch the rats that cometo nibble the treasure-strewn street windows.
4He sits near a brazier,his head bobbing like a fish corkin the serene waters of sleep.The jemmy boyshave not paid him a visit,but if they comehe will die in honour,die fightinglike a full-blooded Zulu –and the baas will say:„Here‟s ten pounds.Jim was a good boy.‟And to rise and keep awakeand twirl the kierieand shoo the wandering waifAnd chase the hobo with „Voetsak‟.To wait for the rays of the sunto spear the fleeing night,while he pinesfor the three wives and a dozen childrensleeping alone in the kraalfaraway in the majestic mountainsOf Mahlabathim –„Where I‟m a manamongst men,not John or JimBut Makhubalo Magudulela.‟Power Cut (Tatamkhulu Afrika)Clock‟s glowing digits showits four a.m.I flip a switch:nothing burns.Has a pylon toppled in the swift,black water of the wind?Candles rollabout under my palms,fluting nibbling at my skin.Matches chatter as the boxskids away from my blind,humiliating hands.Clock‟s coldfire stares,and stares from the dark,grown alien room,whispers “No”to the candles living flame.Candles flare:the shadows boltup into the corners of the room,twitch and thrustlike the bug that tries
5to flee me through the floor.Sea rollsuneasily belowthe bellowing wind.Mock-fig‟sslack leaves splatagainst the window‟s shrilling panes.Islanded,The room is still.As I am still,Islanded in the thinmelancholy of the alone:those watchers at the ebbing tidesof nights and dreams.Candles‟ doubles quiver tallas vigil-tapers in the blackmirrors tideless pool.Water over weed,turbulent with flames,the mirror drownsmy face‟s thousand forms.They gibber, grin,horribly howl,rush the mirror‟s scything rims,narrow to a line.Only the eyes still cry“I am”.The wind whirlsthe leaves one last,strangulating time:drops like a stone.Silence dripslike gutters after rain,runs,tiptoeing,through my ears.Morning, vastand formless, leansagainst my walls.Does it or I sigh,worn with being,ripe with pain?The lights suddenly burn.A dove croons,familiarly, in the pines.Old hungers runthrough the drystreambeds of my veins.Ummi (Tatamkhulu Afrika)I looked at my hands last night,and remembered her:and the rickety stairs that writhedup to the floor she had made her fief,
6where sometimes she rented outa grudging space to carefully screenedpractising Muslim gentlemen –of whom, it seemed,she had decided I was one.Tall and gaunt,arthritis remodelling her limbs,menacingly black,old-style walking stickgripped in her largeas a man‟s hands,she prowled like some lame tigress throughthe monastic, small rooms,strangely flaming yellow eyestelling of a rage I could not comprehend.Evenings,she prayed,all her flesh except the facevoluminously swathed,the rooms suddenly alertwith terror of the God brought close –and as suddenly distanced when she rose,casting off her sanctity as she did her robes,bellowing for the daughter that scrubbed,and polished, and pursued mewith that other terror:the lovelorn swoon of her idiot eyes.Spectrally pale,with the dead,un-European bleachof our bastard race‟s sport,she liked me for the similarwanness of my skin;stooped once and spatin an eye that had grit in it,muttering a prayer in a strange tongue;and she gave me the roomwith the little balcony that leanedout over the old District‟s ruin,and I would sit there of an evening and watchthe last of the children playbefore night fell;and sometimes on a Sunday,sleeping late,I‟d wakeand a starling would be sitting on the rail,flooding the room with transfiguring song,and I‟d go out to tell herit was like home from home,and she‟d sit there staring at me,bleakly as a bone.Widowed, she was mean;she‟d scoop spilled tea
7back into the cup, saying:„the table‟s clean‟.Only once did she give mehope for her soul,proffering cakes with the teawhen my friends from the madrassah cameand I knew pride;but the cakes were stale,iron as her thin smile,and their soured creamunforgivably shamed.I think I hated her then;but she died and I moved onand still did not understandwhy she threw the cakesinto the rubbish bin,did not speak to me for many days.But now I‟m looking at my hands,seeing more than them:misshapen, meanas crab‟s claws they clingto the last of life,the last of things,hold only pain.Our Sharpeville (Ingrid de Kok)I was playing hopscotch on the slatewhen miners roared past in lorries,their arms raised, signals at a crossing,their chanting foreign and familiar,like the call and answer of road gangsacross the veld, building hot arteriesfrom the heart of the Transvaal mine.I ran to the gate to watch them pass.And it seemed like a great caravanmoving across the desert to an oasisI remembered from my Sunday School book:olive trees, a deep jade pool,men resting in clusters after a long journey,the danger of the mission still around themand night falling, its silver stars just like the onesyou got for remembering your Bible texts.Then my grandmother called from behind the front door,her voice a stiff broom over the steps:„Come inside; they do things to little girls.‟For it was noon, and there was no jade pool.Instead, a pool of blood that already had a living nameand grew like a shadow as the day lengthened.The dead, buried in voices that reached even my gate,
8the chanting men on the ambushed trucks,these were not heroes in my town,but maulers of children,doing things that had to remain nameless.And our Sharpeville was this fearful thingthat might tempt us across the wellswept streets.If I had turned I would have seenbrocade curtains drawn tightly across sheer net ones,known there were eyes behind both,heard the dogs pacing in the locked yard next door.But, walking backwards, all I felt was shame,at being a girl, at having been found at the gate,at having heard my grandmother lieand at my fear her lie might be true.Walking backwards, called back,I returned to the closed rooms, home.For All Voices, For All Victims (Antjie Krog)because of youthis country no longer liesbetween us but withinit breathes becalmedafter being woundedin its wondrous throatin the cradle of my skullit sings, it ignitesmy tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heartshudders towards the outline new in soft intimate clicks and gutturalsof my soul the retina learns to expanddaily because by a thousand storiesI was scorcheda new skinI am changed for ever. I want to say:forgive meforgive meforgive meYou whom I have wronged, pleasetake mewith you.This is what I’ll remember (Gabeba Baderoon)Mist in the parkbrings slow clarity to the landscape.We walk a long circuit from the metal gatesdown the straight, formal mall,
9past the statues and the open spaces fallingto the left and to the right.After the frost, the trees showthe last of their colour.Before the steps to the monolith peeringout of the mist – what everything leads to –crowd the ramshackle roses, formal too,but blown, their colours like autumn now,remembered yellow, the pinks and reds touchedwith brown. Not brilliant, no longerwhat we recall of roses,but this state before they falland the bushes hold life during winterclose as a small spark.As the garden gradually revealsitself, we walk into timeand are released to talk of death.The time it tookto sit in your mother‟s presenceand hear what was being saidwhen at last she asked for help,but only for the periphery –to buy something she had seenin the newspaper, to read to her.No request camecloser to the body.To stay by her bedsideand hear the calm detail of needwas to feel a kind of beauty, impossibleto say, but the beauty of dying, the beautyof sitting in the presence of dying.The roses‟ insistent memory,small collectivity before they fall –this is what I‟ll rememberas the point where we turnedand became open with each another,our memories held closedespite the fact that the cold had come,on time.Old photographs (Gabeba Baderoon)On my desk is a photograph of youtaken by the woman who loved you then.In some photos her shadow fallsin the foreground. In this one,her body is not that far from yours.Did you hold your head that waybecause she loved it?
10She is not invisible, notmy enemy, nor even the past.I think I love the things she loved.Of all your old photographs, I wantedthis one for its becoming. I thinkyou were starting to turn your head a little,your eyes looking slightly to the side.Was this the beginning of leaving?