Soweto

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 (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)
More Poems by Kamau Brathwaite