POEM | Exile Blues

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In the late 1970s, Lindiwe Mabuza, a.k.a. Sono Molefe, sent out a call for poems written by women in ANC camps and offices throughout Africa and the world. The book that resulted, published and distributed in Europe in the early 1980s, was banned by the apartheid regime. Half-forgotten, it has never appeared in a South African edition – until now. (Photo: Supplied)
In the late 1970s, Lindiwe Mabuza, a.k.a. Sono Molefe, sent out a call for poems written by women in ANC camps and offices throughout Africa and the world. The book that resulted, published and distributed in Europe in the early 1980s, was banned by the apartheid regime. Half-forgotten, it has never appeared in a South African edition – until now. (Photo: Supplied)

let them roll

let the blues roll out but “this load is heavy it requires men

”has nothing to do with baritone or beard

it is a word of warning wisdom

when the uncontrollable miles

between you and home

the beautiful land

you vowed to liberate

become unbearable

and you ask yourself

if it was worth your leaving the loved ones

as if you left home

a victim of a stupor

when having been rejected

like vomit from a stomach

you try to examine

if it is the food that is stale

or the stomach that is sick

when you are threatened by paralysis

in the midst of so much to be done

when the pettiness has played so many games with you

that like an addict

you do not remember when you did not crave

just another piece of gossip

when the demon trinity

inferiority complex

self assertion

sadism

have become your masters

that you put the stamp

on your own death certificate

as you try to destroy

when you drink yourself insensible

into the gaping dark void

that is ready like the vicious jaws

of a shark to receive you

when some other comrades have fallen victim

to mental breakdown

and you shudder wondering

if you won’t be next to be ambushed

when you make a habit of exchanging blows

that should be kept for the enemy

when you feel trapped

suffocating cornered

at a cul-de-sac

and your tears roll down uncontrollably

as memories invade you daily

maybe let them roll

let them blues roll out let them roll out the blues

till oblivion sneaks to your rescue

when later you feel lighter

retrieve the zeal that made you leave home

lest you go down the drain

with the stinking rot of history

when the song goes “this load is heavy it requires men” that has nothing to do with baritone or beard

it is a word of wisdom and warning that our history is so reddened

with the blood of the best of our land

even the enemy gets more vicious by the second

because the enemy also knows “victory is certain!” is not an empty slogan

*This poem appears in the anthologyMalibongwe: Poems from the struggle by ANC women, which after being banned in South Africa, occupies its rightful intellectual and creative space for the first time in four decades.

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