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Three poems by Mike Weeder


In January 1980, I stood knocking on the door of 100 Tugela Way, Portland, Mitchells Plain. It was a Monday morning and I was there to leave a message from my friend Willie.
While I waited I secured my size-28, postman’s bicycle with a chain to the tar-pole of the car-port of the house. Meanwhile my knock had been answered and I eventually became aware of this presence straight out the Songs of Solomon: “She was dark and comely”. And she was laughing at me.
I discovered later when were dating that she was laughing at me and this bike of antiquity. She was also amused by my old balie fisherman’s’ haversack which was full of emptiness except for a diary, an apple and a small, hard-covered collection of John Milton’s poetry.
Sometime in the course of that year I wrote her this poem …


(The poem was accompanied by a leaf as green as our young love).

When the hills were dark
For Mzi Mbangula: rest in peace, comrade of my youth.

During 1981 I attended a YCS conference in SOWETO. On the way back, Zelda Holtzman who I met in Joburg suggested that we visit the mother of a friend in Zweletemba on our way through Worcester. The friend in question was Mzi Mbangula, the nephew of Rev Otto Mbangula. I had known Mzi and he and Simon Fredericks were both YCS activists and had gone into exile at more or less the same time. Mzi was an astute observer with a keen intellect, complemented by his wry wit and easy laugh. When we met Ma Mbangula, her opening question to Zelda was “Where is my child?” That moment unlocked the following poem

On a morning such as this.
when the hills were dark
with the colouR
of burnt dark.
And the sun in the wind
was soft upon
the land.
And the streets of the places
where we live
were very still.
On a morning such as this.
when the hills were dark
when not even you mother knew
you left us.

So Much to Declare

During a visit to the USA in May 2013 I found a way to calm my spirit as I stood in line for the intimidating ways of ‘Homeland Security’. I would play on my i-pod Chris McGregor’s ‘Country Cooking’ to remind myself that God loves me and the hostile dude in uniform without measure.
Entering Mzansi in 1982 after a visit to the UK, I had poetry as my rock and shield.

London, a frozen, dark distance from sunny skies over Joburg
as BA flight 307 touches ground my anxious land. Yet rejoice, O my soul.

AJ Luthuli International Airport
where the open doors
of peace and friendship welcome all
who love freedom and our people
to a liberated South Africa.

Blue eyes,
warm beneaththe peaked cap of officialdom,
admires the miniature bust of VI Lenin,
COLLETS price tag still intact.

Porters on lunch-time break
grin amandla smiles.
Mbaqanga happiness
forms the excited queue.

I wonder how the debate about a new name for our country was faring and Phila’s suggestion that the Settlers Monument in Rhini, once Grahamstown, be made into the biggest beer-hall in the Eastern Cape.

And last year, like a dream, walking with Fidel Castro along Bernard Fortuin Avenue pass the Alex la Guma Cultural Centre in Elsies River where the Orient Bioscope used to be, and the Commandante laughing through his beard at my account of how we youngsters used to cheer when Zorro rode onto the screen and into our lives. And Daniel, (yes, man, Daniel Ortega) saying that they did the same when he was a boy in Managua and Che somewhere in jungled Bolivia.

“Anything to declare?”
Voice hard
blue eyes hard
like rock
tumbling down,
crashing ten-storeys down,
dangling like time.

“Anything to declare?”
Blue eyes shouting,
“Ja, Boesman, with your wing-tip shoes,
button-down collar and new blue suit.
This is South Africa!”
Anything to declare?”
whipping up the Riotous Assembly of my fear.

“Yes,” I smile from the tip of my trembling toes,
“South Africa belongs to all, and to me and you, Piet.”
He does not hear the roar of ‘Mayibuye!’ at Freedom Square.
“The People Shall Govern,” I assure him,
speaking now with the voice of the thousands
who gathered at The Congress of the People.

“Goed. You may go.”

I pick up my suitcase
and my ruffled courage and walk
past security,
past the soldiers.
My Mandela T-shirt, sweat-wet
against my beating heart . . .