Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Cape Town, Jerusalem

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Being on the inside is a privilege that is an affliction …Because our interior is always … occupied and interrupted by others …we have developed a technique of speaking through the given, expressing things obliquely and … so mysteriously as to puzzle even ourselves. – Edward W. Said, After the Last Sky

Often now I turn away from things,
from jubilance save that
which from a quiet word
may grant my moment’s wealth:
a home town’s olive orchard
that shivers in dusklight, the pit-pat
as fruit fall free to the ground;
or the homeless manic’s quiet rage at grace
when a shop owner hands him coffee.
Most of all, I walk
so I may reach home and try to know
myself, so I may turn to work.

And turn more from the racial rage
I need still in myself, as I turn
from the stone’s articulate act
and seek the sentence long enough
to house my tribe, even as I know
of neither’s existence. These are
rages which won’t still, which need
thought. But thought fans flames.
And action in killing them
kills the word. Yet
in my silence there is
this rage, still this rage.

So I turn away from things
and read, dip into books;
wait thus for reports
from my race, choose not
speech. But sit in my silence
which broods to myself
myself. A self at least. And wait,
more thinking not of exile from –
whether inside or out –
but exile through; how inside
the very head the tongue
is exiled through itself:
the tongue its own exile.

And I turn more away from things,
preferring solitude and work
to tongue at stories
from their silent insides: like an orphan
who in a new house senses an old taste
and quietly mulls thus a morsel
that brings memory darting
like a wasp in the head,
then withdraws his tongue
from probing. Back to the mute bed,
the civilising cradle of the jaw.

Rustum Kozain

Featured Poem:

Stars of stone

Enlarge poem

Today the stones I know will nick
our skulls, then knock our souls
from us. It is so. For under stars
that are but burning stone,
we held each other. Named for light,
Nurbibi clung to me, her back
against the flat roof of my house
warding off earth, hanging
under heaven. Face-down,
I gripped her shoulders, smelled
the stone roof through the rug.
Nurbibi may have stared
over my shoulder at the stars,
those burning bits of far-off stone.

And she may have seen four men’s eyes
hanging above us in their own,
unmoving flame. Eyes of stone,
heads shrouded in swathes
of scripture. So I, Turyalai,
am bound. And on my knees.
And Nurbibi, in whose loins I sought
some God, is now almost at one
with earth, buried to her waist
next to me. We wait
for the seekers of God
and their ceremony of the stone.
Men we do not know will come
and let stone speak, first in whispers

then in what they must believe
a chattering of angels
when the crowd erupts and rocks arc
but in parabolas far short
of reaching God, that must return
to earth. Men who do not know us.
Men who cannot know
that even as we wronged my wife,
in union we created God. In come-cries
caught in the throat, we made Him.
And made Him ours, gave Him some voice
even as He was in the still of night
as He is now, inchoate
before the hard and burning stars.

Turyalai and Nurbibi were accused of adultery and
stoned to death by the Taliban in November 1996.

Rustum-Kozain

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (2)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (2)
  • Jubilation (0)

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Biography

Rustum Kozain was born in 1966 in Paarl, South Africa. Studied for several years at the University of Cape Town; spent ten months (1994-1995) in the United States of America on a Fulbright Scholarship. Returned to South Africa and lectured in the Department of English at UCT from 1998 to 2004, teaching in the fields of literature, film, and popular culture.
Poetry published in local and international journals; debut volume, This Carting Life, published in 2005 (Kwela/Snailpress). Awarded the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize.

Rustum Kozain

Rustum-Kozain
Rustum-Kozain

Biography

Rustum Kozain was born in 1966 in Paarl, South Africa. Studied for several years at the University of Cape Town; spent ten months (1994-1995) in the United States of America on a Fulbright Scholarship. Returned to South Africa and lectured in the Department of English at UCT from 1998 to 2004, teaching in the fields of literature, film, and popular culture.
Poetry published in local and international journals; debut volume, This Carting Life, published in 2005 (Kwela/Snailpress). Awarded the Ingrid Jonker Poetry Prize.

Cape Town, Jerusalem

Enlarge poem

Being on the inside is a privilege that is an affliction …Because our interior is always … occupied and interrupted by others …we have developed a technique of speaking through the given, expressing things obliquely and … so mysteriously as to puzzle even ourselves. – Edward W. Said, After the Last Sky

Often now I turn away from things,
from jubilance save that
which from a quiet word
may grant my moment’s wealth:
a home town’s olive orchard
that shivers in dusklight, the pit-pat
as fruit fall free to the ground;
or the homeless manic’s quiet rage at grace
when a shop owner hands him coffee.
Most of all, I walk
so I may reach home and try to know
myself, so I may turn to work.

And turn more from the racial rage
I need still in myself, as I turn
from the stone’s articulate act
and seek the sentence long enough
to house my tribe, even as I know
of neither’s existence. These are
rages which won’t still, which need
thought. But thought fans flames.
And action in killing them
kills the word. Yet
in my silence there is
this rage, still this rage.

So I turn away from things
and read, dip into books;
wait thus for reports
from my race, choose not
speech. But sit in my silence
which broods to myself
myself. A self at least. And wait,
more thinking not of exile from –
whether inside or out –
but exile through; how inside
the very head the tongue
is exiled through itself:
the tongue its own exile.

And I turn more away from things,
preferring solitude and work
to tongue at stories
from their silent insides: like an orphan
who in a new house senses an old taste
and quietly mulls thus a morsel
that brings memory darting
like a wasp in the head,
then withdraws his tongue
from probing. Back to the mute bed,
the civilising cradle of the jaw.

Featured Poem:

Stars of stone

Enlarge poem

Today the stones I know will nick
our skulls, then knock our souls
from us. It is so. For under stars
that are but burning stone,
we held each other. Named for light,
Nurbibi clung to me, her back
against the flat roof of my house
warding off earth, hanging
under heaven. Face-down,
I gripped her shoulders, smelled
the stone roof through the rug.
Nurbibi may have stared
over my shoulder at the stars,
those burning bits of far-off stone.

And she may have seen four men’s eyes
hanging above us in their own,
unmoving flame. Eyes of stone,
heads shrouded in swathes
of scripture. So I, Turyalai,
am bound. And on my knees.
And Nurbibi, in whose loins I sought
some God, is now almost at one
with earth, buried to her waist
next to me. We wait
for the seekers of God
and their ceremony of the stone.
Men we do not know will come
and let stone speak, first in whispers

then in what they must believe
a chattering of angels
when the crowd erupts and rocks arc
but in parabolas far short
of reaching God, that must return
to earth. Men who do not know us.
Men who cannot know
that even as we wronged my wife,
in union we created God. In come-cries
caught in the throat, we made Him.
And made Him ours, gave Him some voice
even as He was in the still of night
as He is now, inchoate
before the hard and burning stars.

Turyalai and Nurbibi were accused of adultery and
stoned to death by the Taliban in November 1996.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (2)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (2)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (2)
  • Jubilation (0)

Cape Town, Jerusalem

Enlarge poem

Being on the inside is a privilege that is an affliction …Because our interior is always … occupied and interrupted by others …we have developed a technique of speaking through the given, expressing things obliquely and … so mysteriously as to puzzle even ourselves. – Edward W. Said, After the Last Sky

Often now I turn away from things,
from jubilance save that
which from a quiet word
may grant my moment’s wealth:
a home town’s olive orchard
that shivers in dusklight, the pit-pat
as fruit fall free to the ground;
or the homeless manic’s quiet rage at grace
when a shop owner hands him coffee.
Most of all, I walk
so I may reach home and try to know
myself, so I may turn to work.

And turn more from the racial rage
I need still in myself, as I turn
from the stone’s articulate act
and seek the sentence long enough
to house my tribe, even as I know
of neither’s existence. These are
rages which won’t still, which need
thought. But thought fans flames.
And action in killing them
kills the word. Yet
in my silence there is
this rage, still this rage.

So I turn away from things
and read, dip into books;
wait thus for reports
from my race, choose not
speech. But sit in my silence
which broods to myself
myself. A self at least. And wait,
more thinking not of exile from –
whether inside or out –
but exile through; how inside
the very head the tongue
is exiled through itself:
the tongue its own exile.

And I turn more away from things,
preferring solitude and work
to tongue at stories
from their silent insides: like an orphan
who in a new house senses an old taste
and quietly mulls thus a morsel
that brings memory darting
like a wasp in the head,
then withdraws his tongue
from probing. Back to the mute bed,
the civilising cradle of the jaw.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.