Angifi Proctor Dladla Poems

SAILING TO LEPER ISLAND

Here I am, today passing through
Mandela Gateway - free with seagulls, waiting
for a free ferry. With us are tourists
that paid for Garrison Church weddings -
for shades, thought forms snapping,
for reading Jan se Gat back in time.

Today fathers are not here; they will be here.
This I pick up from the seagulls' song,
read it from the dances of the breakers:
"Makana and Autshumato
rickety like Granma in Havana,
are with us, with us
not as a province in Cuba,
Autshumato, Stuurman
are here, here with Sheik Madura
are here, here with Imam Said
are here, here with Imam Guru
not as a paper of the Party.
Makhanda, Maqoma
are here, here with Dilima
are here, here with Fadana
are here, here with Langalibalele
not as a footnote in a folktale.
John Nkosi, Jafta Masemola
are here, here with Mlangeni
are here, here with Leo Sihlali
are here, here with Muntu Myeza
Andimba Toivo ya Toivo . . .
oh Makana, Autshumato
are now here, here . . . "

We sit on the shivering deck and sail,
pulling behind a bridal gown of foam.
Gales slice my ears and nose,
Gales shave my head and cheeks -
no scarf, no wind breaker, no cloak
just like the ankle-welded prisoners, lepers
who wore boas of spiky rings.

I hear their dreams in the cold clanking
of leg and arm irons; feel their anthem
in the rings and chains that bleed.
I see in the shape-shifting waves
captors' eyes in darts and jerks
as if herding hyenas and mambas;
captives' eyes as moonflowers and morning stars
as if they are not in the thick of Transplanted Christianity.
Behold, lepers' eyes receding from Colonial Culture
as if wolfed down by the disease itself.

The heart of the wind fast-forwards
cured criminals let loose to gentle captives,
sweet things dangle in prisoners' faces,
scientists in the mainland preparing concoctions
of slow death to those failing to be broken in, and dark,
dark secrets in vaults, signed, with initials on - oh no!

Page by page in the ether, in the clouds above and below
I taste lost thoughts and visions of early lepers
unfolding in increments like Sobukwe's Clause of claws.

I close my eyes and cry deep into my soul,
"Who will listen to divine insights and visions
if in our narrative the first prisoners only whisper
in our comas and near death experiences?"
I look up to the sky and cry; not because I am a crybaby,
but for what is going on in me. "Do I breathe or feature
in the trance or pictures in this realm of waterscape?"
Down into the ocean depths I look.
Behold, a hand sprouting from the peak
of the mountain, from its fingertips
tentacles of words sparkle upwards:
"Enslavers had stored themselves
in the bodies of your fathers."
I cry long, long, long tears . . .

We arrive in Poqo Island.
The gulls sing the dance-poem of the Island:
"Makana and Autshumato
rickety like Granma in Havana
are with us, with us . . . "

Against the shore surges dance.
Around Table Mountain fog coils.

Welcome to Robben Island:
We serve with pride!
Ons dien met trots!... more »

SPRINGTIME ON THE ROAD TO NABEEP

On the road to Nabeep I gasped and stopped
abruptly right in the moment - the keys
of the sun opening, without breaking,
the colours of Namaqualand.

The whole land suddenly exploded
into a magical panorama of purple,
yellow, orange, white, violet, blue.
Rocks and thatched roofs afar dazzled
with life. I suspect even the heads
and chins of herbalists and farmers
were part of the festival of flowers.

If heaven has streets of gold,
rain of milk, snow of honey;
the new arrivals' destruction of Earth
is a shrill cry to the Almighty.

Men of men had never daydreamed
about heaven; Namaqualand is still a melody of colours:
Bees, birds, red earth; beetles, faeries, butterflies.
I plunged into the Opening Ceremony with the San's song,
"Oh Gxaraken flower, are you opening?"
In my head I heard the aroma of chorus,
"We are opening Ncku-kyam flower."... more »

SONG OF EZA KWAKHO

You are back, as in a dream,
with that fire of yours
now glowing with time.

Give me the file of your life,
your journey, your family.
I'll open mine.

Oh, rise higher, lover
of long ago, don't rubbish
the vows, the rites of our shrines.

This chance moment must not
empty us, dirty us, and -
dishonour our sacred names.

Don't go that route, lover
of long ago! Next to you, oh
I'm vulnerable, vulnerable.... more »

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