Two poems by Vonani Bila

Indonesia

The bending road along the jungle of whispering bamboo
The narrow asphalted road along tall teak and abaca trees
The road of roaring trucks coming down the hill
Green trucks full of logs or quarried stone or scooters
Noses edging close to the cliff
Where wreckage and skeletons sprawl
The heavy silent, grieving forests and caves
+++++Oh, Indonesia, Indonesia
+++I get drunk on your toxic beauty

The road zigzagging through green rice patches and cocoa beans
Large fields of sugar cane, banana and coconut
Large fields of cashew nuts, pineapple and pepper
Fields of tobacco and sweet hairy rambutan
The bashful rain always kisses the ground
But I wonder who owns the seeds and harvest of your sweat
For your children, Indonesia, drill holes in their lungs
With Sampoerma cigarette blades to bury smells of poverty
++++++++++Indonesia, Indonesia
+++++++I get drunk on your deadly beauty

Youth climb onto their blaring Honda and Suzuki motorbikes
Bravely mingle between roaring trucks and buses
A farmer proudly carries a bunch of green bananas on his bike
Another carries loads of coconut and sells by the roadside
Another carries bamboo leaves to feed his sheep
Before he retires to his crowded home
++++++Indonesia, Indonesia
++++I get drunk on your deadly beauty

Earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis wash away
Burning lakes and dissolving mountains that spit fire
Somehow people have not lost their smile
They patch themselves on the highlands
Knowledge passed to them by their ancestors and oral poets
++++++++Indonesia, Indonesia
+++++I get drunk on your deadly beauty

The road along brown murky canals of garbage
The road along cruel bitter rivers of dead fish
The whistling winds of Java sea full of oil-drunken gliding dying swans
At the break of dawn, village children swim in rivers and catches typhoid
Mothers wash and hang their sorrows of unemployment on the banks
Men catch trout, maintain sticky silence as their slim and small daughters
Entertain tourists in the brothels of Bali and Jakarta
++++++++Indonesia, Indonesia
++++++I get drunk on your deadly beauty

Burgersfort Landfill

Vultures dwell here
Among the grim faced shack dwellers
With their famished children

When the waste delivery truck arrives
The dark human vultures shove and shuffle
Fighting over dirt
Competing with rats and pigs

No one talks about this grim enterprise
The vultures hope to turn rags to riches
In this, our wasted market economy

When ministers talk of black empowerment
No one mentions this grim enterprise
Which tries in vain to turn rags to riches

But on election day –
The vultures are fed with pap and beef stew
Dressed in a clean T-shirt with the leader’s face

And when darkness falls
The vultures jadedly retire to the dump
A celestial graveyard of hopes – their home

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