Three poems by Makhosazana Xaba
The alkalinity of bottled water
As I pen a poem on the comparisons of alkalinity levels in bottled water
From the distance, I hear the now familiar song: Solomoni! Iyo Solomoni!
Piercing through the buildings of Braamfontein, unaltered by the strong winds
From the window of our 7th floor office, we saw the shooting of a Catholic priest
The milliequivalents per litre (mVal) of water, commonly known as the pH
Did these jacaranda trees ever imagine a sight like this, on this site?
In front of the Wits Great Hall: many police vans, black men in police uniform
Stand with guns in their hands facing a handful of students, singing and unarmed
This poem on the alkalinity of bottled water veers to the water we are sinking into
Parents have not forgotten the words of the minister of higher education
The words he uttered & then laughed: Students Must Fall! I hear the sounds of
The struggle tune: Siyaya! Siyaya! These Wits students have not fallen. Not now.
The pH of this water must rise because that is how the body detoxifies
As the ire of students rises throughout the country, as universities burn,
As the minister of finance prepares for his budget speech, as he receives charges
from the NPA. The rand falls. Anxieties about a possible relegation to junk status rise.
The mVal of water we have sunk into is falling & we have forgotten that
The COO of the SABC returned to his job. The news of raging fires, of burning books!
The end of a seven-year term of the first woman Public Protector this country has known, is here
The report on state capture is looking for a safe resting place, has had to wait for court judgement
As we waver in this water, as we discuss the dangers of this descent
We reach out to our inner core for the power we once possessed, the power
We once knew we had, in a time we once owned, when the line was indelible
We now need an end to the welcome disruptions. We welcome the incoming Public Protector.
While working on this poem on alkalinities, I take a call from a literary scholar who tells me:
“Apologies the poetry session has been cancelled, no visitors allowed at the University of Pretoria.”
During this period of flaring fires, rising students & conversations about decolonizing:
Shaeera Kalla. Bullets on you back. Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo. Ten years later, we look back.
This poem has settled with the analysis of the alkalinity of the water we are drowning in
As our arms flail in desperation, we hope to start seeing a hard rock below
Waiting for us at the unfathomable bottom. Fezekile, the four sisters ensured
That we never forget: Kufezekile! And for that, the pH rises and we with it.
As the rock becomes visible, we strengthen our arms & legs, some pray, others start a song
We dive with smiles on our faces because we realize that the turning point is close
We would be singing out loud if we were not under water, so we focus on not drowning
So that we can rise again, resurface and realize the dreams of the democracy we want
She refuses to pack and leave
Every morning she prays out loud – twice – while
Standing in front of the massive wooden door
For the third time kneeling in front of the eternal flame
She tells them that the flame is her own fire
That she cooks her meals there and sleeps there on cold nights
That she taught herself to read by standing in front of the lettered door
She tells them that the colossal door is a superwoman
When they say she has lost her mind, she says that is a lie
Her home address is: “Hilltop”
And her name is Dedani.
The tentacles of white men in academia
Go deep, spread wide, entangle
Says a Black woman scholar,
The only solution is to wait
for them to die.