Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

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Shall I at least put my lands in order? & Dear irreplaceable mother

Enlarge poem

SHALL I AT LEAST PUT MY LANDS IN ORDER?

Forgive me: I am all mange and forgetfulness.
Burrs in the coat of too much thinking, too much pain.
My bony hands have grown rigid with grasping the right.
What is morality if it is not safeguarded by the voracious?
What force would justice have were it not
clawed from the carapace of scorpions?

But unforeseen birdcalls are troubling this anaesthetic age.
Am I to be condemned for holding on to what little I have?
Am I to be overthrown by what I have so long sustained?
Who commands the city that has swarmed up beneath me?
What conspiracies burble in those terracotta cells?

I am certain now of nothing but the persistence of stupidity.
This is the gift of the tall view.
We are drying out in the thin winter sun;
the dry ratchet of the barbet
winds down to some obscure apocalypse.
This is what history is: a throne
from which one cannot descend.
I send my bark echoing amongst the mopanes,
again, and again.
I will entertain no regrets.

(From Slow Fires, 2014)

DEAR IRREPLACEABLE MOTHER
Dear irreplaceable mother:
when you pad ahead of me down
the forest path, you don’t disturb
a single leaf you don’t have to.

The branch fallen across the track
you lay to one side as gently
as you would a drowsing fawn; you
tease the bruised shoot back to straightness.

You are the straightness in my back.
You are the knot where my paths rest.
You said I was less your child than
a strange gift fallen from the sky.

I am your leaf; you, gravity.
How will life have weight without you?
When the time comes, may this rough earth
lay you down, to one side, gently.

(From original Forest, 2001)

Dan Wylie

Featured Poem:

Telemachy

Enlarge poem

I am in search of a certain man.
Nestor, Menelaus, have you seen his sail?
Memory, can you resurrect his voice?

You ask: How would we recognise him?

He has a skull as blunt as an apothegm.
He has a chest like a depth-charge.
He has forearms like steam-trains.
He has hands that break resistance into kindling.
He has calves striated as volcanoes.

You ask: By what manners might we distinguish him?

He has a stride that scythes through armies.
He has eyes that would melt ice, then turn to ice.
He wields an argument with the rectitude of a hand-axe.
He has a laugh that collapses the lungs of nuns.
He has a memory to shame elephants.
An obstinate, cunning, and irrepressible intriguer.
So persuasive, so quick-witted, so self-possessed.
Eloquence and sound judgement, too.

You ask: What is this man to me?

He spoke me into being.
Year on year he strove
to teach me how to fight
how to read thoughtfully
how to seek
how to stare down failure
how to comprehend machines
how to navigate into unprecedented seas.
He beat me just once.
He embraced me once.
He let me go more than once.
I turned from him more than once.
The gods turned his head to darkness.

Have you not fragments I can piece together
to make at least the semblance of a father?
I wanted to ask him: Did I fail you?
I wanted to ask him: Did you perish incomplete?

I have sailed the length of the sliding world, and return,
looking for his footprints on the surfaces of waves.
Even as I draw closer, with cautious oars, he fades.
Where am I to look for him now?

(From Sailor: Poems for my father, 2013)

dan_wylie_badilisha_poetry

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Biography

Dan Wylie teaches English at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He has published two books on the Zulu leader Shaka (Savage Delight: White Myths of Shaka and Myth of Iron: Shaka in History, both UKZN Press); a memoir; Dead Leaves: Two Years in the Rhodesian War (UKZN Press); and several volumes of poetry. Most recently, he has concentrated on Zimbabwean literature and on ecological concerns in literature. He founded the annual Literature & Ecology Colloquium in 2004, and edited the collection of essays, Toxic Belonging? Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa (Cambridge Scholars Press). His latest publications are Elephant and Crocodile, both in the Reaktion Books animals series, and Slow Fires (poems with etchings by Roxandra Britz; Fourthwall Books).

Dan Wylie

dan_wylie_badilisha_poetry
dan_wylie_badilisha_poetry

Biography

Dan Wylie teaches English at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He has published two books on the Zulu leader Shaka (Savage Delight: White Myths of Shaka and Myth of Iron: Shaka in History, both UKZN Press); a memoir; Dead Leaves: Two Years in the Rhodesian War (UKZN Press); and several volumes of poetry. Most recently, he has concentrated on Zimbabwean literature and on ecological concerns in literature. He founded the annual Literature & Ecology Colloquium in 2004, and edited the collection of essays, Toxic Belonging? Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa (Cambridge Scholars Press). His latest publications are Elephant and Crocodile, both in the Reaktion Books animals series, and Slow Fires (poems with etchings by Roxandra Britz; Fourthwall Books).

Shall I at least put my lands in order? & Dear irreplaceable mother

Enlarge poem

SHALL I AT LEAST PUT MY LANDS IN ORDER?

Forgive me: I am all mange and forgetfulness.
Burrs in the coat of too much thinking, too much pain.
My bony hands have grown rigid with grasping the right.
What is morality if it is not safeguarded by the voracious?
What force would justice have were it not
clawed from the carapace of scorpions?

But unforeseen birdcalls are troubling this anaesthetic age.
Am I to be condemned for holding on to what little I have?
Am I to be overthrown by what I have so long sustained?
Who commands the city that has swarmed up beneath me?
What conspiracies burble in those terracotta cells?

I am certain now of nothing but the persistence of stupidity.
This is the gift of the tall view.
We are drying out in the thin winter sun;
the dry ratchet of the barbet
winds down to some obscure apocalypse.
This is what history is: a throne
from which one cannot descend.
I send my bark echoing amongst the mopanes,
again, and again.
I will entertain no regrets.

(From Slow Fires, 2014)

DEAR IRREPLACEABLE MOTHER
Dear irreplaceable mother:
when you pad ahead of me down
the forest path, you don’t disturb
a single leaf you don’t have to.

The branch fallen across the track
you lay to one side as gently
as you would a drowsing fawn; you
tease the bruised shoot back to straightness.

You are the straightness in my back.
You are the knot where my paths rest.
You said I was less your child than
a strange gift fallen from the sky.

I am your leaf; you, gravity.
How will life have weight without you?
When the time comes, may this rough earth
lay you down, to one side, gently.

(From original Forest, 2001)

Featured Poem:

Telemachy

Enlarge poem

I am in search of a certain man.
Nestor, Menelaus, have you seen his sail?
Memory, can you resurrect his voice?

You ask: How would we recognise him?

He has a skull as blunt as an apothegm.
He has a chest like a depth-charge.
He has forearms like steam-trains.
He has hands that break resistance into kindling.
He has calves striated as volcanoes.

You ask: By what manners might we distinguish him?

He has a stride that scythes through armies.
He has eyes that would melt ice, then turn to ice.
He wields an argument with the rectitude of a hand-axe.
He has a laugh that collapses the lungs of nuns.
He has a memory to shame elephants.
An obstinate, cunning, and irrepressible intriguer.
So persuasive, so quick-witted, so self-possessed.
Eloquence and sound judgement, too.

You ask: What is this man to me?

He spoke me into being.
Year on year he strove
to teach me how to fight
how to read thoughtfully
how to seek
how to stare down failure
how to comprehend machines
how to navigate into unprecedented seas.
He beat me just once.
He embraced me once.
He let me go more than once.
I turned from him more than once.
The gods turned his head to darkness.

Have you not fragments I can piece together
to make at least the semblance of a father?
I wanted to ask him: Did I fail you?
I wanted to ask him: Did you perish incomplete?

I have sailed the length of the sliding world, and return,
looking for his footprints on the surfaces of waves.
Even as I draw closer, with cautious oars, he fades.
Where am I to look for him now?

(From Sailor: Poems for my father, 2013)

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (1)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (1)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (1)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Shall I at least put my lands in order? & Dear irreplaceable mother

Enlarge poem

SHALL I AT LEAST PUT MY LANDS IN ORDER?

Forgive me: I am all mange and forgetfulness.
Burrs in the coat of too much thinking, too much pain.
My bony hands have grown rigid with grasping the right.
What is morality if it is not safeguarded by the voracious?
What force would justice have were it not
clawed from the carapace of scorpions?

But unforeseen birdcalls are troubling this anaesthetic age.
Am I to be condemned for holding on to what little I have?
Am I to be overthrown by what I have so long sustained?
Who commands the city that has swarmed up beneath me?
What conspiracies burble in those terracotta cells?

I am certain now of nothing but the persistence of stupidity.
This is the gift of the tall view.
We are drying out in the thin winter sun;
the dry ratchet of the barbet
winds down to some obscure apocalypse.
This is what history is: a throne
from which one cannot descend.
I send my bark echoing amongst the mopanes,
again, and again.
I will entertain no regrets.

(From Slow Fires, 2014)

DEAR IRREPLACEABLE MOTHER
Dear irreplaceable mother:
when you pad ahead of me down
the forest path, you don’t disturb
a single leaf you don’t have to.

The branch fallen across the track
you lay to one side as gently
as you would a drowsing fawn; you
tease the bruised shoot back to straightness.

You are the straightness in my back.
You are the knot where my paths rest.
You said I was less your child than
a strange gift fallen from the sky.

I am your leaf; you, gravity.
How will life have weight without you?
When the time comes, may this rough earth
lay you down, to one side, gently.

(From original Forest, 2001)

Comments

Your email address will not be published.