Ready to Fly:
The poems in this collection [published 2009] date from the early 1970’s and extend through time to the year 2009. They rattle with the insecure optimism that characterises living in Afrika, a place from which so many are ‘Ready to Fly’ at a moment’s notice while remaining simultaneously transfixed in the glaring cascade of change.
No one could ever say that living in Africa, or in !NiK’s world, Azania, or Afrika was, or is, or will be easy; even when it looks as though it is. For those displaced though, in location and time, easy is not a word that springs to mind. And displacement is all the rage these days in Africa.
The initial displacement, for the poet at least, was migrating from his place of birth in a troubled northern region emerging from a period of internecine conflict, to the birth of trouble in the southern ‘lucky land’: or as it is more popularly known “The Beloved Country”. And then later he exiled himself, foolishly perhaps with love in his heart and a song in his hair, to more troubled lands, from which he later re-exiled back to a deeply troubled former lucky land. Later he finds he has reluctantly become an alien again in the beloved country: To cope he absorbed Azania.
The poet’s journey is a mirror for the upheaval following: the failure of the great [so-called] White-African experiment, in which he was simply a ‘buffettee” * [sic]. The journey follows the rainbow expectations in the newly liberated South Africa of the ‘90’s,as it morphed towards Mzansi, and the polarising lash-back as hybristic failures and choleric rage sought out its traditional scapegoats…. Unwanted or envied or wealthy people are history’s grey targets; and those who are unwanted, envied and poor are in an even more precarious position: living at the whim of the “mob”. So we live through the stirrings of change in the [so-called] ‘Noughties’ as we [an entire society] convulse again: the unintended outcome [one hopes] of an all-intentional series of acts.
For poets it is almost preordained that life shall be precarious and all the more precious as a result. The whole point of the middle class though, was to perpetuate sustainability.
This collection contains some pieces that may be contentious, some that may be ignored; and some that may be cherished. I can say no more than that.
There is no pattern or thematic structure. Each piece in the collection, excluding the piece that follows this, appears in alphabetic order according to the title given at the time it was originally written, except where it was changed and if it doesn’t seem to follow that order then those pieces that don’t are a subset of a prime piece that does. Enclosed within the brackets behind NiK’s signature, !NiK, at the end of each piece, are numbers that indicate the year when the piece was written, in some cases more or less.
Let the dice fall where they may.
* Buffettee : one who is buffeted about.
You can either be a part
Of the power
From the power.
Believing that anyone
So Inkambabeyibuza –
By this scar then you shall remember me
From the notes of Joy.
The Jonker Memorandum.
A superfluity of rights
The human being may be described as the
Lowest form of life on Earth
Since it is the most recent form to evolve.
It is therefore the one most likely to be capable
Of further mutation [one step two step…],
To become as much as it can be, through
Application of mind – Or
It can choose to discard the mind, as many do
In pursuit of the transient instant as
Was done in their turn by all
The other living entities on the planet.
What if we are here
To consume the planet?
And in some way through our growth plus
we achieve a critical mass that will spark off
the next phase in our
evolution…. Our revelation of transformation: the moment of our fabled
Shall we ask then… come back later please?
Professor Oram Namgosti
10th Freedom Lecture: Witwatersrand University
2130 A.D. [118 A.A.]
From the podcast novel: The Jonker Memorandum… After Armageddon.
An entanglement of cords
I thought for a moment
and how they entwine
about each other:
longing for the entrails
and the lascivious touch
of all that
Whether it’s the vacuum cleaner cord or the lawn mower cord, the computer cords or a cord from here to there, or even the hosepipe, a cord of a different texture; leave it alone and the cords bond and entwine.
[21 January 2008]
“Welcome to Mbeki’s banana republic”
Thus reads the headline in the Sowetan this morning/
“We are rapidly joining the ranks of Nigeria and Zimbabwe” it
It could as easily have read: “An inheritance ruined!”
They could have said… but didn’t because it is not
Fashionable to say such things or perhaps
The idea of an inheritance is not welcomed: certainly not
For who will choose to remember how
It was done: the smug sanctuary of victory
The arrogant takeover; the
Cursory words of contempt
For the loser.
As the newbies reached for the symbols
The milk is spilt the omelette awaits its end
For want of a light
The darkness returned
For want of a light for now.
Then the phrase was “who do you know?”
When the newly appointed toadies [who owed everything to their
Held schtumm when the outrageous was apparent.
And the emperor’s non-existent rags began to wither
On a malformed leg. All now say
We didn’t know
We didn’t know it was important;
That there would not be a place where we could appropriate the stock and take it over
For our own delicious ends.
How dare the people demand!
They cry out now.
We gave them everything they have
So they must now pay
With their aspirations and their leavened joy.
Spend wisely said the trustees
Who were impolitely ignored
There were guns and bombs and loot
To be adored.
The victors must have been right
It was believed; and the rules
Of the losers should be deplored.
Now all the best horses and all the new men
Could not put light where no facility
The citizens, who were enraged
Burned the trains
And are now caged
Into their neighbourhoods
Where there are no jobs
Work is scarce where imagination is
Restricted to the squares on which
Thus the “mirror cracked
From side to side”: and we saw
‘For want of a nail…’
Ballad of a Homeless man
Not all refugees live on pavements: they are refugees nonetheless.
These are now the ways
we spend our days
gathering frills and garnishes.
Never forget: an age
at the parting when
Did we feel any sense of sorrow,
or was that only a moment,
a wave of emptiness:
that tense expectancy.
And now we sit apart
waiting for another journey
A frantic time of quiet
reflection as we cali
the sounds of laughter, and clinking cutlery;
listening to the feeling
with no need to join their noise
no need to empathise their brief amnesia.
How total is our
expectation of the actions that
we everlastingly assume
we need to make.
How deep the lull,
the quiet solicitude
expecting nothing of itself.
How your coffee spoons
mark out the borders
of my days, my weeks
and never ending months
of waiting, for the end
And in those wasting seconds
as we sip futility,
what was our course
and why was it
We pause in the midst of Armageddon
for spiced spare ribs
and the cleansing
fresh warmed towel.
Forgetting all our ignominies
in the meat lodged
firmly ‘tween our teeth.
Our own banality
sublime neglectful thoughts.
We dance a parody
of empty resolutions
The fresh scrubbed face
of youthful vigour
peers out at all
the sad decay
and senses challenges
amidst the dustbin heap
of our calamity:
and we rejoice
in their eternal anticipation.
Striding to the corridors
of endless crisis
a presageful intimation
Now, when we start again:
the bureaucratic minuet,
our jaded muscles know the stranglehold
of power corrupt
with seeking to maintain.
There are no players
only cut-out cardboard
shadows blown by the wind:
trampled in the solitary dust.
I thought about
your old nostalgic
msasas and chameleons;
the slender limbs
of green Flamboyant
Flights of circling
black silhouettes against
of evening’s stormy sky.
from perception’s rheumy eye.
‘till next time
we come by.
Thinking of the brain
As a piece of territory
Some parts are worked
And are in varying stages of neglect
Where you encounter new information
Are like virgin forest in which the
Undergrowth, rapidly regenerating
And tangles the feet.
Or else it may so simply
Over stone and sand leaving
So faint an impression
That unless walked over
As if never there.
I think I take my students on
A staggering walk about
Through the wildernesses of their minds
And leave them only
Below the line: pure thought
“Below the line
Thought is negative” proclaims
On the wall
Above my head.
Presumably above the
Is thus positive.
What is this line?
How is it contrived?
And how are the parameters
Is there a difference between my lie
Can my lie be so small
That it trips me up.
While their big lie is
That like a wall it blocks
The lie has so substantial a base
That no one can budge it.
It can be so huge it becomes truth
And our position at the margins
Should you have reached this point know that the rest will be available once i figure out how to package the work in kollektivised digital form and put a hyperlink here instead of this banal statement.