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Two poems by Mandla Malandela

Kraal of our Genes

There is an art form only sung and hissed
by those we call the dead.
An art form fixed between poetry and painting:
clay cattle dabbled on river banks not far from eBakhwetheni,
the childhood portraits we drew on the tar-roads of Mdantsane –
all washed out by merciless rains,
scrubbed off by jealous car tyres.

Some say it’s an art form to impress the living.
“Wasting time.”
That art form is not that far if one truly seeks it.
It is mostly found in kicking imaginary soccer balls,
shadow boxing, ducking and weaving away from imaginary opponents.
It lies hidden on lonely walks, in confronting horizons
and sometimes smiling for no reason and patting one’s back.

Listening to crickets or in re-weighing answers
said to be ‘best’ when scruffling life head on.
An art form tantamount to a man standing
emaxhantini akowayo seemingly doing nothing
but trying hard to convince the full house
yezi Hlwele zakowayo.
Some art is never to be understood.


His Viva’s!

One of the most ill-disciplined human qualities is memory.
My father would tell me about his favourite political party
While I was brushing my school shoes or washing the dishes.
A sudden break always snuck in –
His talk mimicked the Israelites in their desert journeys:
Man in true-seek of liberation.
His words would paint like Dumile Feni
With charcoal on fabriano;
So his fantastical narrations heavily fuelled my aspirations
Of being a politician – obviously in his honour.

Then 1994 finally barged in and fumes
Of a ‘better living’ glowed on his face.
But as time went on, the glow slowly tarnished.
And with all his claims of nyamezela kwedini,
I would grind my teeth tighter.
That was up to 2013 and his final years.

How I wish he’d lived to see the dawn of 2016!
Haha . . . hayi angekhe sbali.
Forgive me, father, for I’ve lost trust in your party.
Plainly, just as they purr it, as they mince it,
Feloniously, that “Together we can do more.”