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Poems by Brent Meersman

Dark Continent
Flying at night south over Africa
small rural fires dotting the void
slowly link until they burn as great, electric freeways.

Out of darkness came the light
demanding a great sacrifice, for the
illuminating service it bestowed, upon
a people too subtle and fair minded to be
recognised as civilised.

As ancient tablets fall to dust when discovered,
so truth only fleetingly shows itself
before it crumbles away
and is remembered but partially in stories
falsely made fact.

Know now, that this righteous light
cast shadows darker than the primordial night,
shadows where reason could go to work, undisturbed
exterminating millions.

For darkness is only this: truth unrevealed.


Under the heads on coins[1]

On death row young black men await their fate;
this tale as told by mothers in apartheid.
They’d take the train a thousand miles to find
their boys in metal cells with chains confined.
On death row.

The truncheon, boot and bars enforce the state,
these schoolboys know that freedom comes too late,
sitting silent they for mothers wait;
these mothers who have almost lost their minds.
On death row.

“Mama, this white man’s trick, come, celebrate,
the noose is fake; we fall to a secret state,
we work with gold, grow old, the proof you’ll find;
I’ll make a golden coin of me to remind.”
So mothers sit and scratch the two-cent coppers till late.
On death row.

[1] The copper two-cent coins bore the heads of presidents Swart (1968), Fouché (1976), Diederichs (1979), Vorster (1982).



A whole nation lived next to the sea,
for as long as five hundred years,
along five hundred miles of coast,
and never did they eat or long for fish.

Why so keen now to import oysters on aeroplanes?



when I am false I do not lie
when I am true I am not fact

my falsehood is based in hope
my truthfulness in justice
and I love my country

I can be proven,
but I cannot be disproved

my believers are innocents
they hope for a better world
they wish the guilty punished

I grow many…when leaders tell untruths
I become millions…wherever Presidents dissemble

I am shh a conspiracy.


The Cyclone Comes

Dread cyclone out at sea, deciding still
upon which island victim, set your vast
white, whirlpool eye on us, who all else kill.

At harbour pirogues bobbing loose forecast
impending doom. Political storms brew –
white tear-gas mists Antananarivo blast.
From people eating mud-cakes these riots grew;
now grey sea cataracts the nation warn,
that fragile is one man, but men aren’t true.
Before the tempest common men did storm
against, among, each other, casting stones,
they’ve lost their way and from the earth are torn.

Now nature comes unearthing even bones
exhumes the skeletons, and turns the dead,
these victims, dead by men and not cyclones:
the Legions Malagasy betrayed and bled,
charnel house of France, Abschiebung of the Jews,
the slaughter, the 1947 deathbed.

This island bleeds itself away, it spews
its rivers red with earth far out to sea,
it starves the knife-ribbed herds of sacred Zebu,
where car wrecks strew their rusted filigree
and rows of telephone poles, out of use,
wires on the ground where baobabs stood free,
like God-forsaken crucifixes ooze.

The cyclone swells. The mud will eat the people.
And floods have come to wipe out our abuse.