Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

A Prayer for Civilisation

Enlarge poem

When one observes our fellow citizens and their daily travail,

One can’t help asking of the powerful,

How can it make you happy if you are rude or rough with people?

How can it make you joyful if you make people’s lives difficult?

Would it help your digestion or your self-image,

If you shout at others, if you are curt?

Would it make you feel superior to others,

Or make you feel better than us?

Would it make your daughter smile,

Or make your son proud?

If you are arrogant and horrible, cold and unfeeling,

If you bully and humiliate people,

If you destroy careers and incinerate living people,

If you are racist,

What does that say about your Soul?

What does it matter if you have a string of

educational accomplishments,

If you’ve read Mandela, Albert Einstein,

Mahatma Gandhi, Dennis Brutus,

Desmond Tutu and Alan Paton,

If you still make children cry and women weep,

and men shake their heads in sadness?

When you, my fellow human beings, are in pain,

And tears trickle from your eyes like blood from your Soul,

What kind of person would be simple-mindedly

obsessed with himself?

I see people who care for people,

People who enjoy bathing babies

and who teach people manners.

People who sew, clean and teach children to read,

People who mix cement, lay bricks, repair vehicles

and remove the litter,

People who protect and employ the people.

People who have endured racism, humiliation and enervating stress.

I see people who have kissed and sung,

danced and loved.

I see people who love and who need love.

So I ask again, why must you upset myself by being awful to others?

It’s so much easier to smile, to be polite, to be kind, to care,

For from our fellow South Africans comes courtesy, humanity, appreciation,

love and respect.

Our fellow human beings illuminate the only lives we have.

When you look at us, you see South Africa, our beloved country.

When you care for us, you care for our country

And you honour God.

Written in the Year 2000

Published previously in New Coin (Rhodes University), Litnet,

Wild River Review (USA), and the Westville Rotary bulletin, Figtree

Deena Padayachee

Featured Poem:

A prayer

Enlarge poem

If I could turn the Sahara to sugar-cane and give some of it to the Jews

and some to the Palestinians, so that a few might not murder.

If I could take the ice of Siberia and make it hum with life,

And give some of it to every landless person

in this sad world

so that absent owners might leave roofs alone.

If I could take a little of the Kalahari and make it green

So tyrants might be less free with our enterprises.

If I could make a little of the Atlantic, land,

and give some of it to Irish Catholics and

to Irish Protestants,

to Germans, Dutch and to English,

so bombs will not lacerate children

and vital, vigorous people will not be paralysed.

If I could give a little of the Pacific to the wealthy Americans

to fight in among themselves,

so they might stay away from Vietnam, Grenada and Cuba.

If I could teach the Russians that they have enough land

and had no need to invade Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan.

If I could but gift oil to the Anglo Americans,

So their killers might stay away from Iraq and Afghanistan,

And not maim children, eviscerate the aged,

break the hearts of innocent human beings.

If I could teach people to be satisfied with God’s bounty and not steal.

If I could teach people that there is

no happiness in another person’s unhappiness

or life in another’s death.

If I could teach people not to strangle this beautiful Earth with their progeny

and annihilate other Species.

If I could teach people that religion cannot mean hate

and that arrogance is merely a symptom of decay and doom.

If only

O Lord!

If only!

5 November 1983

Poem from the book, ‘A Voice from the Cauldron’ by Deena Padayachee – 1987

Published in Skive – Australian literary journal – 2009

deena

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  • Pride (0)
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  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
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  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

  1. If only, that is the thing, Deena, if only! I remember this poem from a long time back, and still feel this way. This is the mark of a great poet: one who writes things that we don’t forget!

    Rob Mann

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

MB Ch B(Natal)

Winner: Olive Schreiner Prize for prose (1994)

Winner: Nadine Gordimer Prize for a short story (1991).

Winner of the Fay Goldie Award (three times) and a prize from the Grahamstown Eisteddfod for prose writing.

Short stories and poems broadcast on SAFM and LotusFM, again in 2013, and published in literary journals in India, the UK, USA, Canada and Australia and translated into Tamil and Hindi.

Short stories published in over 12 literary anthologies including  A century of South African short stories, the University of Cambridge’s New Writing from South Africa, Penguin’s contemporary short stories and Reader’s Digest’s Best South African short stories.

Prescribed author for KZN matrics in 2004/2005.

Monthly Columnist for the Sunday Times Extra till 2008.

Invited author at the university of Copenhagen (1999), university of Tuebingen (1999), Teacher’s college of Mauritius (2007), State university of Louisiana (2008), University of Zululand (2012)

Poems and prose published in 2011/2012 by Rhodes university, Wits university and the university of Oklahoma as well as in other literary anthologies.

Deena Padayachee

deena
deena

Biography

MB Ch B(Natal)

Winner: Olive Schreiner Prize for prose (1994)

Winner: Nadine Gordimer Prize for a short story (1991).

Winner of the Fay Goldie Award (three times) and a prize from the Grahamstown Eisteddfod for prose writing.

Short stories and poems broadcast on SAFM and LotusFM, again in 2013, and published in literary journals in India, the UK, USA, Canada and Australia and translated into Tamil and Hindi.

Short stories published in over 12 literary anthologies including  A century of South African short stories, the University of Cambridge’s New Writing from South Africa, Penguin’s contemporary short stories and Reader’s Digest’s Best South African short stories.

Prescribed author for KZN matrics in 2004/2005.

Monthly Columnist for the Sunday Times Extra till 2008.

Invited author at the university of Copenhagen (1999), university of Tuebingen (1999), Teacher’s college of Mauritius (2007), State university of Louisiana (2008), University of Zululand (2012)

Poems and prose published in 2011/2012 by Rhodes university, Wits university and the university of Oklahoma as well as in other literary anthologies.

A Prayer for Civilisation

Enlarge poem

When one observes our fellow citizens and their daily travail,

One can’t help asking of the powerful,

How can it make you happy if you are rude or rough with people?

How can it make you joyful if you make people’s lives difficult?

Would it help your digestion or your self-image,

If you shout at others, if you are curt?

Would it make you feel superior to others,

Or make you feel better than us?

Would it make your daughter smile,

Or make your son proud?

If you are arrogant and horrible, cold and unfeeling,

If you bully and humiliate people,

If you destroy careers and incinerate living people,

If you are racist,

What does that say about your Soul?

What does it matter if you have a string of

educational accomplishments,

If you’ve read Mandela, Albert Einstein,

Mahatma Gandhi, Dennis Brutus,

Desmond Tutu and Alan Paton,

If you still make children cry and women weep,

and men shake their heads in sadness?

When you, my fellow human beings, are in pain,

And tears trickle from your eyes like blood from your Soul,

What kind of person would be simple-mindedly

obsessed with himself?

I see people who care for people,

People who enjoy bathing babies

and who teach people manners.

People who sew, clean and teach children to read,

People who mix cement, lay bricks, repair vehicles

and remove the litter,

People who protect and employ the people.

People who have endured racism, humiliation and enervating stress.

I see people who have kissed and sung,

danced and loved.

I see people who love and who need love.

So I ask again, why must you upset myself by being awful to others?

It’s so much easier to smile, to be polite, to be kind, to care,

For from our fellow South Africans comes courtesy, humanity, appreciation,

love and respect.

Our fellow human beings illuminate the only lives we have.

When you look at us, you see South Africa, our beloved country.

When you care for us, you care for our country

And you honour God.

Written in the Year 2000

Published previously in New Coin (Rhodes University), Litnet,

Wild River Review (USA), and the Westville Rotary bulletin, Figtree

Featured Poem:

A prayer

Enlarge poem

If I could turn the Sahara to sugar-cane and give some of it to the Jews

and some to the Palestinians, so that a few might not murder.

If I could take the ice of Siberia and make it hum with life,

And give some of it to every landless person

in this sad world

so that absent owners might leave roofs alone.

If I could take a little of the Kalahari and make it green

So tyrants might be less free with our enterprises.

If I could make a little of the Atlantic, land,

and give some of it to Irish Catholics and

to Irish Protestants,

to Germans, Dutch and to English,

so bombs will not lacerate children

and vital, vigorous people will not be paralysed.

If I could give a little of the Pacific to the wealthy Americans

to fight in among themselves,

so they might stay away from Vietnam, Grenada and Cuba.

If I could teach the Russians that they have enough land

and had no need to invade Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan.

If I could but gift oil to the Anglo Americans,

So their killers might stay away from Iraq and Afghanistan,

And not maim children, eviscerate the aged,

break the hearts of innocent human beings.

If I could teach people to be satisfied with God’s bounty and not steal.

If I could teach people that there is

no happiness in another person’s unhappiness

or life in another’s death.

If I could teach people not to strangle this beautiful Earth with their progeny

and annihilate other Species.

If I could teach people that religion cannot mean hate

and that arrogance is merely a symptom of decay and doom.

If only

O Lord!

If only!

5 November 1983

Poem from the book, ‘A Voice from the Cauldron’ by Deena Padayachee – 1987

Published in Skive – Australian literary journal – 2009

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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

A Prayer for Civilisation

Enlarge poem

When one observes our fellow citizens and their daily travail,

One can’t help asking of the powerful,

How can it make you happy if you are rude or rough with people?

How can it make you joyful if you make people’s lives difficult?

Would it help your digestion or your self-image,

If you shout at others, if you are curt?

Would it make you feel superior to others,

Or make you feel better than us?

Would it make your daughter smile,

Or make your son proud?

If you are arrogant and horrible, cold and unfeeling,

If you bully and humiliate people,

If you destroy careers and incinerate living people,

If you are racist,

What does that say about your Soul?

What does it matter if you have a string of

educational accomplishments,

If you’ve read Mandela, Albert Einstein,

Mahatma Gandhi, Dennis Brutus,

Desmond Tutu and Alan Paton,

If you still make children cry and women weep,

and men shake their heads in sadness?

When you, my fellow human beings, are in pain,

And tears trickle from your eyes like blood from your Soul,

What kind of person would be simple-mindedly

obsessed with himself?

I see people who care for people,

People who enjoy bathing babies

and who teach people manners.

People who sew, clean and teach children to read,

People who mix cement, lay bricks, repair vehicles

and remove the litter,

People who protect and employ the people.

People who have endured racism, humiliation and enervating stress.

I see people who have kissed and sung,

danced and loved.

I see people who love and who need love.

So I ask again, why must you upset myself by being awful to others?

It’s so much easier to smile, to be polite, to be kind, to care,

For from our fellow South Africans comes courtesy, humanity, appreciation,

love and respect.

Our fellow human beings illuminate the only lives we have.

When you look at us, you see South Africa, our beloved country.

When you care for us, you care for our country

And you honour God.

Written in the Year 2000

Published previously in New Coin (Rhodes University), Litnet,

Wild River Review (USA), and the Westville Rotary bulletin, Figtree

Comments

  1. If only, that is the thing, Deena, if only! I remember this poem from a long time back, and still feel this way. This is the mark of a great poet: one who writes things that we don’t forget!

    Rob Mann

Your email address will not be published.