To Winnie Mandela in Sisterhood
Perforated eardrums. Welts. Blisters.
The crie de coeur rising to meet
blows from the rubber whips.
Sufferings of your brothers and sisters
scraped your heart sore,
tore open fresh wounds.
Yet, upon your release
your words stripped them naked, even as
your shy smile
blossomed, like any innocent flower.
To wait 28 years to touch your husband
(By then, you and he grandparents!)
Is the stuff of myth,
Countering myths of the other:
"savage, brute, driven by lust" --
flesh denied flesh:
your fierce chastity
burst the bubble
of their blame.
Calm, composed, inchoate, autochthonous as a
the chiseled nose, the full cheeks, the
grace of Makonde ebony
high holiness of the Bakota reliquary
When we speak we will speak in codes
We will dance a dance of liberation
with zoomorphic wood mask
and sacred python helmet mask---
burlap, fibers, glass beads...
When peace comes, Winnie, as sisters,
we will sit down and take up womanly arts
design and dye adire eleko
create tapestries soaked with blue-black indigo,
rich ochre, green, blue-green---
celebrate life in every incarnation.
The dancer, drummer, masque, hunter,
dance among lions, snakes, elephants,
lizards, frogs, monkeys, macaws---
all under broad-leafed trees.
Until then our song will be:
We will not suffer
We will not suffer the guilt of the woman who cries
"Is it I that have brought death?"
We will not suffer
We will not suffer the guilt of the
child who cried
"Is it I have brought death to earth?"
No we will defy and tell the truth, we will tell
how the sparrow has been killed, we will tell
how the sparrow's throat has been cut
we will tell and we shall demand to know
how is it, how is it that you got it into your head
that you, Mr. Boer, are a lord?
The sparrow has been killed!
And will our mothers be left to die like pigs?
We will tell and we will defy and shout over the
last lost grave at Dimbaza:
Mother, do not cry for us, Mother do not cry for us;
Mother, do not bury us in a dunghill,
Mother, do not bury us among the raffia grass;
Mother , do not bury us in some forest;
Mother we have defied
Mother, we no longer sit with painful thoughts
Mother, we sing the song of the Beti workman
"The cannons are broken, run
quickly, the cannons are broken, all you,
come and run quickly"