Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Please, take photographs!

Enlarge poem

Go to the nearest or cheapest electronic goods store
And there, buy cameras by the score.
Hurry! Go! Go! Go!
Then go home; gather your family and
Take photographs of them all
Especially the children; especially, the young,
Hurry! Take photos of them all
Before it is too late

Take photographs of the children
Take photographs of them playing
Take photographs of them crying
Take photographs of them reading their best books
Or doing their chores – but –
Hurry! Hurry! Before it is too late

Take photos of the children kneeling, busy at cat’s cradle
Take photos of them naked and dancing in the rain
Take photos of them fast asleep in their cozy beds
Take photos of them in their school uniforms; their Sunday
best, or ragged day dress.
But, please, hurry and take photos of the children,
Before it is too late
Before all the children are gone –
Before the promise that is their life
Is snuffed, easily as candlelight.

Your sons, so fearless, call sex with condoms
Eating candy with the wrapper on.
Perhaps their coffins they’ll call castles
The ant and worm their company, slaves who do their
bidding.

Please, take photographs, and tell the children why –
Take photos, before the young perish to the very last.
Take photographs! Take photographs, and put them on the
walls
So the image of the dear face will forever live on.

I know, small comfort is a picture, your son or daughter
gone.
Cold is a photo, from it comes not warmth for smile nor
hug.
A photo does not laugh; it will not go to the shop for you
Or be solace in your old age.

But, take photographs! Take photographs
So on birthdays and other days of remembrance
You can point to the picture on the wall and say
Vusi would’ve been thirty today, perhaps with a
Young one and another on the way

Take photos, take photos, before all the children are gone.
Before our tomorrow is no more –
Halved, at best, by the plague that comes with love;
Helped by the children who will not believe their
Dying – and men whose bones grew ever up,
The feet and inches, from the ground, sprouting.
Men who escaped the meaning of the passage of the years.
Who shot up, went to school – some;
But escaped the meaning so Social Responsibility.
To such souls, respect, respectable, respectability,
Are long dead; forget morality!
Doomed, despicable, craven images of humanity.

Please, hurry! Take photographs of all the children, now!
Take photos, for tomorrow they will be gone.
Take photos! Take photos of the children…
Children who will not see thirty.
Children who will never …grow…old.

Sindiwe Magona

Featured Poem:

For Maria

Enlarge poem

The first decade – I learnt to wipe my nose
Wipe my feet before entering the house
After a walk in the rain or on snow

The second decade – I learned to put on lipstick
Look in the mirror before
Leaving the house
Look at a boy without letting him know
I was looking
Look like a lady without letting Mama know
I felt all womanish inside

The third decade – I learned to wipe other people’s noses
And love it
I learned to put another’s interest before mine
Love and duty were but two sides of the same coin
Complain?
Me?
What did I have to complain about?
I was fulfilled! Grown up, married, with children and all,
A roof over my head. A boiling pot on the stove
And a man who told me, at least twice a day,
He worshipped the ground I walked on!
Yes, sometimes, very late at night, he reminded me
How much he loved me –
Very, very, very late at night; when the children were
Fast asleep.
Whenall the dishes were sparkling clean
When the floor was swept free of all toys,
Dusted, and wiped free of meddlesome footprints
Yes, sometimes, late at night, he reminded me
For the third time that day, how much
He loved me.

The fourth decade – I watched my own children,
My daughters, make goo-goo eyes at boys
When they thought my eyes were closed
My ears deaf as stone
They whispered tingly secrets; made subtly suggestive
Gestures. Amused, I watched it all – thought, inside,
I sighed; amused to see the pattern repeat itself. Oh, my
God!
Embarrassed, I remembered my own naïve assumption of
My mother’s blindness

The fifth decade – there was no denying it – my children
Were grown. Yes, they were my children; but they,
Definitely, were no longer children!
Did this mean I was old?
How could it be – when had that happened?
I was just discovering my essence!
Discovering joyful living sans fear of pregnancy,
Sin or ridicule! It was in such ecstatic sensuousness
I entered

The sixth decade – let no one misguide you,
The fifties are for fleshly fulfillment, sinful
Delight, and sprightly goings on. Now, at last,
I knew all there was to know about life.
I’d even made it, from scratch, myself
Gave it flesh, blood, and bone
Knit and bled it into being,
Nurtured it to healthy maturity.

The seventh decade – I learned to live with loss
A huge hole came to live in my heart
But I learned to understand this:
The loss is as big as the love. I suffer
Greatly for I have greatly loved
I am grateful for the love that was mine.
I suffer, but I could not have asked for less.

The eighth decade – I learned to live with
Fewer and fewer friends
Fewer and fewer visits from my children
As their own lives grew fuller and fuller

I love the four walls I call home
I love the skin that houses the bones I call my body
I love the people who, a long time ago,
Were my children
I look at their clean noses and know
I have lived a good life. Look. Just look!
How they truly no longer need me!

The ninth decade – I will learn the meaning of hours
For time is short, each hour more precious, therefore!
The journey is definitely longer behind me
The road ahead lifts with joy as I see
Footsteps painted a bright and
Joyful gold!
Without a doubt, I know, those are the footsteps
Love has made.
Mine has been a long life – rich in experience.

But now, looking back, I see all those brilliant
Moments in my life are moments of loving,
Of giving to others. These are moments
When I transcended the self and its
Imperious demands. When I was for
Another – whatever it was they needed
To go one step forward: wife, friend;
Mother; neighbour; daughter; sister ; or
Stranger!

Yes, I can see: I have been a good citizen, a decent
Human being.
Now, I am eighty years old – I hope I still have
Time enough to catch up!
Pass me that damn bottle of wine, will you?

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (2)
  • Pride (2)
  • Optimism (2)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (5)
  • Inspiration (3)
  • Reflection (4)
  • Captivation (3)
  • Peace (5)
  • Amusement (2)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

  1. Mama Magona is an admiring trailblazing force!
    Her poetry is spiritual..igniting love to the human soul!

    Lazola Pambo

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

A native of the Transkei, she grew up in a township near Cape Town, where she worked as a domestic and completed her secondary education by correspondence. Magona later graduated from the University of South Africa and earned a graduate degree from Columbia University. She retired from the United Nations in 2003 and currently lives in South Africa.

She published her autobiography To My Children’s Children in 1990. In 1998, she published Mother to Mother, a fictionalized account of the Amy Biehl killing, which she adapted to a play. This was performed at the Baxter Theatre complex in late 2009 and the film rights to the novel were acquired by Type A Films in 2003. She has also written autobiographies and short story collections. Her novel Beauty’s Gift was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book, Africa Region. In 2009, Please, Take Photographs, her first collection of poems, was published.

Sindiwe Magona

Biography

A native of the Transkei, she grew up in a township near Cape Town, where she worked as a domestic and completed her secondary education by correspondence. Magona later graduated from the University of South Africa and earned a graduate degree from Columbia University. She retired from the United Nations in 2003 and currently lives in South Africa.

She published her autobiography To My Children’s Children in 1990. In 1998, she published Mother to Mother, a fictionalized account of the Amy Biehl killing, which she adapted to a play. This was performed at the Baxter Theatre complex in late 2009 and the film rights to the novel were acquired by Type A Films in 2003. She has also written autobiographies and short story collections. Her novel Beauty’s Gift was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best Book, Africa Region. In 2009, Please, Take Photographs, her first collection of poems, was published.

Please, take photographs!

Enlarge poem

Go to the nearest or cheapest electronic goods store
And there, buy cameras by the score.
Hurry! Go! Go! Go!
Then go home; gather your family and
Take photographs of them all
Especially the children; especially, the young,
Hurry! Take photos of them all
Before it is too late

Take photographs of the children
Take photographs of them playing
Take photographs of them crying
Take photographs of them reading their best books
Or doing their chores – but –
Hurry! Hurry! Before it is too late

Take photos of the children kneeling, busy at cat’s cradle
Take photos of them naked and dancing in the rain
Take photos of them fast asleep in their cozy beds
Take photos of them in their school uniforms; their Sunday
best, or ragged day dress.
But, please, hurry and take photos of the children,
Before it is too late
Before all the children are gone –
Before the promise that is their life
Is snuffed, easily as candlelight.

Your sons, so fearless, call sex with condoms
Eating candy with the wrapper on.
Perhaps their coffins they’ll call castles
The ant and worm their company, slaves who do their
bidding.

Please, take photographs, and tell the children why –
Take photos, before the young perish to the very last.
Take photographs! Take photographs, and put them on the
walls
So the image of the dear face will forever live on.

I know, small comfort is a picture, your son or daughter
gone.
Cold is a photo, from it comes not warmth for smile nor
hug.
A photo does not laugh; it will not go to the shop for you
Or be solace in your old age.

But, take photographs! Take photographs
So on birthdays and other days of remembrance
You can point to the picture on the wall and say
Vusi would’ve been thirty today, perhaps with a
Young one and another on the way

Take photos, take photos, before all the children are gone.
Before our tomorrow is no more –
Halved, at best, by the plague that comes with love;
Helped by the children who will not believe their
Dying – and men whose bones grew ever up,
The feet and inches, from the ground, sprouting.
Men who escaped the meaning of the passage of the years.
Who shot up, went to school – some;
But escaped the meaning so Social Responsibility.
To such souls, respect, respectable, respectability,
Are long dead; forget morality!
Doomed, despicable, craven images of humanity.

Please, hurry! Take photographs of all the children, now!
Take photos, for tomorrow they will be gone.
Take photos! Take photos of the children…
Children who will not see thirty.
Children who will never …grow…old.

Featured Poem:

For Maria

Enlarge poem

The first decade – I learnt to wipe my nose
Wipe my feet before entering the house
After a walk in the rain or on snow

The second decade – I learned to put on lipstick
Look in the mirror before
Leaving the house
Look at a boy without letting him know
I was looking
Look like a lady without letting Mama know
I felt all womanish inside

The third decade – I learned to wipe other people’s noses
And love it
I learned to put another’s interest before mine
Love and duty were but two sides of the same coin
Complain?
Me?
What did I have to complain about?
I was fulfilled! Grown up, married, with children and all,
A roof over my head. A boiling pot on the stove
And a man who told me, at least twice a day,
He worshipped the ground I walked on!
Yes, sometimes, very late at night, he reminded me
How much he loved me –
Very, very, very late at night; when the children were
Fast asleep.
Whenall the dishes were sparkling clean
When the floor was swept free of all toys,
Dusted, and wiped free of meddlesome footprints
Yes, sometimes, late at night, he reminded me
For the third time that day, how much
He loved me.

The fourth decade – I watched my own children,
My daughters, make goo-goo eyes at boys
When they thought my eyes were closed
My ears deaf as stone
They whispered tingly secrets; made subtly suggestive
Gestures. Amused, I watched it all – thought, inside,
I sighed; amused to see the pattern repeat itself. Oh, my
God!
Embarrassed, I remembered my own naïve assumption of
My mother’s blindness

The fifth decade – there was no denying it – my children
Were grown. Yes, they were my children; but they,
Definitely, were no longer children!
Did this mean I was old?
How could it be – when had that happened?
I was just discovering my essence!
Discovering joyful living sans fear of pregnancy,
Sin or ridicule! It was in such ecstatic sensuousness
I entered

The sixth decade – let no one misguide you,
The fifties are for fleshly fulfillment, sinful
Delight, and sprightly goings on. Now, at last,
I knew all there was to know about life.
I’d even made it, from scratch, myself
Gave it flesh, blood, and bone
Knit and bled it into being,
Nurtured it to healthy maturity.

The seventh decade – I learned to live with loss
A huge hole came to live in my heart
But I learned to understand this:
The loss is as big as the love. I suffer
Greatly for I have greatly loved
I am grateful for the love that was mine.
I suffer, but I could not have asked for less.

The eighth decade – I learned to live with
Fewer and fewer friends
Fewer and fewer visits from my children
As their own lives grew fuller and fuller

I love the four walls I call home
I love the skin that houses the bones I call my body
I love the people who, a long time ago,
Were my children
I look at their clean noses and know
I have lived a good life. Look. Just look!
How they truly no longer need me!

The ninth decade – I will learn the meaning of hours
For time is short, each hour more precious, therefore!
The journey is definitely longer behind me
The road ahead lifts with joy as I see
Footsteps painted a bright and
Joyful gold!
Without a doubt, I know, those are the footsteps
Love has made.
Mine has been a long life – rich in experience.

But now, looking back, I see all those brilliant
Moments in my life are moments of loving,
Of giving to others. These are moments
When I transcended the self and its
Imperious demands. When I was for
Another – whatever it was they needed
To go one step forward: wife, friend;
Mother; neighbour; daughter; sister ; or
Stranger!

Yes, I can see: I have been a good citizen, a decent
Human being.
Now, I am eighty years old – I hope I still have
Time enough to catch up!
Pass me that damn bottle of wine, will you?

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (2)
  • Pride (2)
  • Optimism (2)
  • Anger (1)
  • Delight (5)
  • Inspiration (3)
  • Reflection (4)
  • Captivation (3)
  • Peace (5)
  • Amusement (2)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Please, take photographs!

Enlarge poem

Go to the nearest or cheapest electronic goods store
And there, buy cameras by the score.
Hurry! Go! Go! Go!
Then go home; gather your family and
Take photographs of them all
Especially the children; especially, the young,
Hurry! Take photos of them all
Before it is too late

Take photographs of the children
Take photographs of them playing
Take photographs of them crying
Take photographs of them reading their best books
Or doing their chores – but –
Hurry! Hurry! Before it is too late

Take photos of the children kneeling, busy at cat’s cradle
Take photos of them naked and dancing in the rain
Take photos of them fast asleep in their cozy beds
Take photos of them in their school uniforms; their Sunday
best, or ragged day dress.
But, please, hurry and take photos of the children,
Before it is too late
Before all the children are gone –
Before the promise that is their life
Is snuffed, easily as candlelight.

Your sons, so fearless, call sex with condoms
Eating candy with the wrapper on.
Perhaps their coffins they’ll call castles
The ant and worm their company, slaves who do their
bidding.

Please, take photographs, and tell the children why –
Take photos, before the young perish to the very last.
Take photographs! Take photographs, and put them on the
walls
So the image of the dear face will forever live on.

I know, small comfort is a picture, your son or daughter
gone.
Cold is a photo, from it comes not warmth for smile nor
hug.
A photo does not laugh; it will not go to the shop for you
Or be solace in your old age.

But, take photographs! Take photographs
So on birthdays and other days of remembrance
You can point to the picture on the wall and say
Vusi would’ve been thirty today, perhaps with a
Young one and another on the way

Take photos, take photos, before all the children are gone.
Before our tomorrow is no more –
Halved, at best, by the plague that comes with love;
Helped by the children who will not believe their
Dying – and men whose bones grew ever up,
The feet and inches, from the ground, sprouting.
Men who escaped the meaning of the passage of the years.
Who shot up, went to school – some;
But escaped the meaning so Social Responsibility.
To such souls, respect, respectable, respectability,
Are long dead; forget morality!
Doomed, despicable, craven images of humanity.

Please, hurry! Take photographs of all the children, now!
Take photos, for tomorrow they will be gone.
Take photos! Take photos of the children…
Children who will not see thirty.
Children who will never …grow…old.

Comments

  1. Mama Magona is an admiring trailblazing force!
    Her poetry is spiritual..igniting love to the human soul!

    Lazola Pambo

Your email address will not be published.