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Tropical Scars: Page 2 of 19

Body: 
cover image

There Was A Time         

He said:

There was a time
    spinning with the rattle
            of the inqola*
to the fields and back
             to the fields and back
    -a time,
               before Frame's* time-machines.

and, there was a sun
          before this photostat
          this xeroxed copy
          was pinned to our dawns
and the moon
        brassoes to promenade Marine Parade*
and this jello-grey ukulala*
              was clouds
                            you could see them then
                                 slithers of froth
                                  rising from the back of waves
                             to pour down again paraffin-free and clear.
                       and the winds knew how to blast
                                      to storm and hurricane
                                      shaving your scalp
                                      and the rain would lash hope across your face
                                      and the rainbow would twist earring
                                           from the tip of your ears

He told her:
yes there was a time, when we could love
                 and run and flow without these fences
     when we could love and run through days
               and nights with colourful hats
              and we could love
               under the stars
            wearing umthala* as our ceiling
                     to awake with the flitter of isicelankobe.*

II
He said:

Inside me was the origin of storms
in my lungs grew enormous pressure
words were gathering force to burst out
to decorate the world
developing great speeds
and dangers
for when my mouth dared open a trifle too slow
they would burst through
and shoot out my teeth
and gums would be bleeding
or sometimes the words would ignite
coming out as arrows of flame raising the forests
and the trees would dance in their wigs of fire

He told her:

But then I would see you again under the tree
we first met
and the flames would abate
and the tree would roll you
through the embers down to the river
and it would float away
carrying you down
in the company of monkeys and deer.
And I would run repainting the forest
in new bright colours
and I would spin tales of joy
and I would run to the river mouth
to greet you riding on the backs of chattering porpoises
and we would float up and down the tides
to gaze at beach sands
to stare at the snow-capped breasts of Quatalamba.*

He said:

But then came the floods
and our name was not Noah
and he did not know us by name
and down came the skies
raining bricks and dollars
railway-sidings and fences
and our name was not Noah

III
He told her:

And I searched for the feathers
  to decorate your crown again
     to decorate our love again
and I searched in the marshes and mangrove swamps
  but I did not find unongqanga*
 I found it later at the municipal dump
and I searched for the black ilanda*
  in all the lagoons
  and the umakholwase*
and found them suspended in mid-air
  unsure to land
uncertain to take-off into the sun
and spiked through a thorn tree I found the secretary bird
  and I ran through the grassland to look for the gwala-gwala*
in the forests of Nkandla
      to find it spray-painted the colour of pumpkins
but still shrieking
  and I lifted up high to caress the claws of
the warlike ukhozi*
  to see it down there
  riding a sharkfin around a homeland minister's
  pale blue pool.

IV
He said:

And I said no,
I shall sting this world with my spear
But they layghed and called me "mosquito"
and they teased the power of my sting
and I wandered over the fences and under the barriers
scraped around walls and over ditches
and scratched
the picture of spiders
of isicabu* with its venom
on the walls of AECI at Umbogothwini
and I scratched the mamba uncoiling
on the face of Main Tin
and the form of unwabu*
I shaped on the walls of
bakers
and you could see the crocodile
on the chimneys of Lever
and the rhino stampeding at Bata's
the lion and elephant parading at Dunlop's
and a frog at Huletts and
they laughed and they called
me "mosquito"
and laughed at the sting of my spear.

He told her:

And I walked with you past these structures
and said to you that the walls are beginning to tremble
that they stood infected
and that epidemic was to start
no sooner than
tomorrow
and you didn't laugh
you cried
and siad look you have become their mosquito
and this is you - insect life
and you said that there was a time
spinning with the rattle of the inqola
but that time was gone.

V
And I saw you scything umoba*
straining you back
and I saw you standing
and dreaming of mealiestalks
smoking away
and scratching for pumpkins
and I saw through the clouds of my dagga-stick
fences
and wattle plantations
and cotton plantations
and banana plantations
and umoba plantations
and we drank bitter brew
and we drank
and we drank
to the fences and back.

VI
And I walk now look at my shuffle
to the scraping of electric guitars
and I see people switched-off
and I see people switched-on
bewitched
and I can still hear some laughter

as people strut out with their armies
to the scratching of electric guitars
raising a forest of sticks
and I hear the war cries
and I look at the flags
and I am looking for you
knowing that I might find you carrying a bible to church
or your hide to the mill for its skinning
or then I might not just yet
but again I might
in the stadiums resounding
and I stalk through the streets look out for my shuffle
look out at me trying to break through the web
of my pantsula* brain
to say there was a time
for you and me.

Description: 
Destined to be an important contribution to progressive writing in S.A. - Frank Meintjies