Bitter Tea by Mahlasela Nhlengetwa

Mahlasela Nhlengetwa | August 17th, 2016 | a poem a day challenge, poetry | No Comments

Skinny dogs barking the cold sun out,
Coal stoves keeping the house warm as the porridge erupts on wobbly pots, splatting on kwi “kati elilele eziko”

Skinny tired coal cart pulling mules trot the street with rusted shoes,
Shouting black “nights” selling coal ripped out by their own fathers from the belly of Mother Earth while their own mothers polish brass ornaments in the northern suburbs.

The rush of the bustle | all roads lead to eGoli, Wake up!!! I’m late!!!
Bread winners off to losing!!!

The word was out!!! Faster than twisted twitter | intense then Instagram | focused than Facebook

The Word

“Vandag!!! Die poppe sal dans, lama bhunu azonya , Phansi ngalama simba”

Like an army they wore their grey, black and white uniforms,
Shinny shoes and jim dress’
Armed with cardboard, slogans, dreams and a wet cloth…

Suspecting jobless parents,
sweeping and vraving “blood” red stoeps,
Talked over falling fences of the unknown.
“Yazi , labantwana mara….”

Like ants | black | weak alone | dangerous in numbers

The streets were never ready
Amabhunu were never ready
The world was never ready

Kwa shunq’uthuli singing the songs of Luthuli,

Grrrrrrr drrrrrrrrrr kakakaka
Grrrrrrr drrrrrrrrrr kakakaka
Grrrrrrr drrrrrrrrrr kakakaka
Grrrrrrr drrrrrrrrrr kakakaka
Automated chorus of young trigger happy afraid Afrikaans boys dressed in uniform and called soldiers

Screaming girls
Crying kids
Hysterical mothers

Blood | Sweat | Tears
Shinny red stoeps | blood rivers
Bodies laying on mothers laps
Starched white shirt stained

The sun watched tearfully as the gas
Blinded it’s rays, the dust blocked it’s view
But the sounds of change echoed loud beneath the rising dust

The word was out,
Soweto was burning

Her warm tears fell down her cheeks
Dripped into the tea she was making for madam and her friends…

Mavis, – yes madam,
why is my tea salty? – As she tasted a bitter taste in her mouth.

Her child was lifeless on the streets of Soweto.


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