Soweto

By Kamau Brathwaite b. 1930 Kamau Brathwaite
Out of this roar of innumerable demons

hot cinema tarzan sweat
rolling moth ball eyes yellow teeth   
cries of claws slashes clanks

a faint high pallor

dust

oceans rolling over the dry sand of the savanna

your houses homes warm still with the buffalo milk   
bladder of elephant . tusk of his stripped tree   
sing soft clinks

but the barracks

the dark dark barks of the shark   
boys
the cool juice of soweto . . .


out of this dust they are coming
our eyes listen out of rhinoceros thunder   
darkness of lion

the whale roar stomping in heaven
that black bellied night of hell and helleluia
when all the lights of anger flicker flicker flicker flicker

and we know somewhere there there is real fire
basuto mokhethi namibia azania shaka the zulu kenyatta the shatt   
erer the maasai wandering into the everlasting shadow of jah

daughters lost daughters

bellowing against bullhorn and kleghorn
bellowing against bargwart and the searchlights of dogs   
bellowing against crick and the kick in the stomach

the acrid wretch against the teeth
bellowing against malan malan malam malan
and boer and boerwreck and boertrek and truckloads of metal

helmet and fusil and the hand grenade
and acid rhodes and the diamonds of oppenheimer   
the opulence of voortresshers the grass streiders . . .


suddenly like that fire the crows in johannesburg   
you were there
torn. in tears. tatters

but the eyes glittered and the fist
clenching around that scream of your mother bled   
into a black head of hammers

and the night fell howl   
on soweto

the night fell howl   
on soweto

and we who had failed to listen all. those. foot. steps   
who had given you up like a torn paper package

your heroes       burning in your houses   
                        rising from your dust bowls   
                        flaring from the sky

                        listen now as the news items lengthen   
                        gathering like hawks looking upward like the   
                        leopard plunging into the turmoil like the

                        constrictor

and that crouch/shot
shout out against that beast and pistol
the police who shot patrice who castrated kimathi

                        and clattering clattering clattering clattering   
                        the veldts gun metals wings
                        rise from their last supper their hunger of bones

                        bomba

and the daniels sing

                        ukufa akuqheleki kodwa ke   
                        kuthiwa akuhlanga lungehlanga   
                        lalani ngenxeba nikhuzeka

                        and we are rowing out to sea where the woman   
                        lived with her pipe and her smoke   
                        shack

                        and her tea in the tea   
                        pot
                        tankard of hopes

                        herbs

                        lamagora afele   
                        izwe lawo

                        and we are rowing out to sea   
                        where there are farms

                        and our farmers laid waste the land
                        to make honey. we are the bells of the land . . .



dumminit
dumminit

lit by lantern and lamp

damp
dumminit

ash/can
kero

sene glow
can

dle &
glare

dumminit

hitting the head of the h/anvil

huh

drumminit

?
his school/book
huh

but to learn
blood

what is blood
hah

but to bless
dream

and that hill now under the ocean
and the pages splashed with his blood   
and that bullet a hero a hero herero . . .



once the germans destroyed every sperm   
in your village every man who could walk
every nim growing into the noom and nam of yr man/hood

they stripped skin and made catapults skulls were their pelmets   
upon the wall
and the torn feet cracked and stacked and streggaed

rubbish heap . dog howl . cenotaph

and for days there was stench over the grasslands   
and for months there was silence upon the trees   
cow . goat . udder . manyatta

bantustan upon the land . . .

and then it was gone like all hero hero herero   
like your canoe upon the land . . .


walking back down now from the shores of kikuyu water   
washing back down now from Swahili laughter

zimbabwe kinshasa limpopo
always limpopo the limper the healer

it comes down from the ruins of the north   
from the lakes of the luo

from the sunlights and sunrise of the east

as antient as sheba as wise as the pharaohs   
as holy as the early morning mists of ityopia


an i
man
tek long
time to
reach hey
but a
bomb
an de lim
popo drop
down
an de
dread
come
an de
wreck
age soon
done

soon

soon

Soweto
we have waited so long for this signal
this howl of your silence
this heat of herero this hero

and i beheld the great beast strangled
howling in its chains
led by the fetlocks
and the opulence useless
and the long guns shattered and silent

and we rise

mushroom

cloud

mau mau

Kilimanjaro

silvers of eagles

tears

savannas

nzingas of rivers

umklaklabulus of mountains

and the unutterable metal of the

volcano



rising

rising

rising

burning



soon

soon

soon

soweto



bongo man a come
bongo man a come

bruggadung

bongo man a come
bongo man a come

bruggadung
bruggadung

bruggadung
bruggadung

Kamau Brathwaite, “Soweto” from Middle Passages. Copyright © 1993 by Kamau Brathwaite. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Middle Passages (1993)

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Poet Kamau Brathwaite b. 1930

POET’S REGION Caribbean

Subjects War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

Holidays Kwanzaa

Poetic Terms Concrete or Pattern Poetry, Free Verse

 Kamau  Brathwaite

Biography

Born in Barbados, Caribbean poet and scholar Edward Kamau Brathwaite was educated at Harrison College in Barbados and Pembroke College in Cambridge. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sussex.
 
Using “nation language” as well as linguistic and typographic innovation, Brathwaite composes poems that deftly parse the connected strands of postcolonial, historical, and personal inquiry. As Publishers Weekly noted . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity

POET’S REGION Caribbean

Poetic Terms Concrete or Pattern Poetry, Free Verse

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