Monday, June 28, 2010


Tomorrow by Frank Kobina Parkes from Songs from the Wilderness, 1965.

"If you forever fix your eyes on muddy river banks
To see the slime and rotten eggs that foul the air
You lose sight of the graceful brook
Which though not clear, is not so dark
As to absorb your image

If you will ever strain your eyes on bloated, croaking frogs
Beside the stream, and filthy ducks that swim the tide
You may not taste the flowing spring
Which though not white, is yet not black
And can reflect your shadow

If you forever look with jaundiced eye on struggling man
And see his faults and only those - his darker self
You will deride the God-like soul
Which sleeps beneath. Yearns. Waits just a while
A brief, brief while to flower."

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Redemption by Frank Kobina Parkes from Songs from the Wilderness, 1965

"My world pines in your marble breasts, daughter of woe
Green buds crack in the dry harmattan wind
Sun beats down on the city of a million dead
Men wove hats with their hands for a shelter
And monkeys, from tree-tops bare, mock
With crown-capped glee
Bare-headed among the despoiled flowers I stand
Empty-handed, in built-up deserts
I groan mankind's loss
And search wide heavens for a sign not written there

I am a stranger....

My mother's house is desolate and bare
I, stranger upon earth, walk alone the misty pavements
Where bright sun shines and brings no warmth
As snowflakes parachute to rescue earth

Yet you are shivering, daughter of the land

I feel, can touch and yearn to chant old psalms
Recorded on soundtracks through Adam's mind
But I am no more human
Purged of mankind-knowing griefs
Snobbery passes me by
And I have lost my voice
In the whining of the arctic winds bleak and sharp
Despair withdraws from my cold paw in friendship shot
Alone I prowl, being without soul
Lone as a star that twinkles in a firmament of crushed-out eyes
Depths are frozen wombs
Barren skulls and cross-bones picked
And earth belongs to other races - pressed in steel

I am lost...and you...
And what shall we make
Of all these shining orbs and incandescent tombs?

The sun is dark, is cold the sun
I am a potter's vessel shaped by knowing hands
Fallen from sky of earth-dreams that never flower
The eye of the Lord is on me
(And his wrath too)
How long,
How long shall I riddle rock breasts for warmth
How long shall I, a worn Silesian exile, turn
Sore feet for refuge to shrines of past oppression?

Suffer me
Oh suffer me not to be separated
Firm breasts that milked my toothless gum

In the desert place
Let my cry come unto Thee!

I shall return
I shall return to sun-warmed lands
Where rivers flow all through the year
I shall return with the glory of sun-down
Only to battered citadels will I return
To bashed-in skulls and sun-picked bones
Wild groans of shattered hearthstones pierce my ears
Knock, O knock down the battlements of pride

Caress stone breasts with benumbed hands
That fire may rise
And coldness burn
And warmth return
And in red glow, behold:
That sign sure writ in blood

Shall these bones live?
Shall these bones live?

The streams of Life gush out in tuneful song
Dead bones in rocky caves astir
Dead bones in mansions moving,
As the glory of God descends on earth

To be despoiled."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

After the Holocaust

The poem After the Holocaust by Frank Kobina Parkes from his collection of poems Songs from the Wilderness from 1965:

"Let us build new homesteads
New dreams to decorate these ruins
Let us weave fresh rafters from rescued stalks
Let us start all over again

The past is a pitiless dream
A dread nightmare, you may remember, which stared
Deep into our fearless eyes
We gave it a glance for glance
Frown for frown
Fouler word for filthy word
And when it kept on staring
Like a senseless imbecile
We lost our minds completely
We braced ourselves for self-assertion
To knock this beast over
And so redeem our peace

And that, you may remember,
Was the storm clouds breaking over us
And death marching in
And flowering fields laid low
And children in the womb with them

Now we look back to the pity of the nightmare
Not being anywhere near at all
And to sad awakening that our stare
Had been nowhere but into blank brotherly eyes
Seized by delirium like ourselves
And that, had the black storm only given us
A moment's chance,
And not struck just then....

But the past is horrific reality."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Busi Mhlongo has joined the ancestors...

I just heard that Busi Mhlongo's time had come, and I try in vain to stop my tears. She had a voice which reached the deepest core of my soul.
The Queen of Maskanda, traditionally Zulu music played by men, fought a battle against cancer but succumbed at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Durban, 15th June.

Jacob Zuma uttered these words in her remembrance: “She transformed the maskandi guitar of migrant Zulu mine workers into an instrument of peace.
Her music carried poignant messages of South Africa’s struggle for freedom and justice. She ensured her compositions defied categorisation and emphasised the universality of the human race.
Her love for music kept the flames of hope alive during our country’s struggle for democracy. Her music encouraged and influenced a range of contemporary South African artists.
She inspired the nation and let the world know of South Africa’s quest for freedom. A true legend has passed away.”

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