Archives for June 2011

Human nature

At a fundraiser held by a school for learning-disabled children, a father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After thanking the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
“When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Zishan, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?”

The audience was silenced by this query.

The father continued. “I believe, that when a child like Zishan, physically and mentally handicapped comes into this world, an opportunity is created to realise how true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.”

Then he told the following story:

Zishan and his father had walked past a schoolyard where some boys, were playing cricket. Zishan asked his dad, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’
Zishan’s father looked over at the boys, and was reluctant to ask, as he knew that most of the boys would not want someone like his son on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

So, Zishan’s father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Zishan could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by 10 runs, will soon be going into our last over, with one wicket in hand. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat, if we lose another wicket.’

Zishan hobbled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His father watched with tears in his eyes. The other boys noticed the father’s joy at his son being accepted. In the last over with one run remaining off two balls, a wicket fell.

Now, with one run remaining off two balls, the potential winning run was in reach and Zishan was scheduled to be next to bat. Zishan’s father anxiously thought. At this juncture, do they let Zishan bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Zishan was given the chance to bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Zishan didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Zishan stepped onto the pitch, the bowler, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Zishan’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Zishan could at least make contact. The first ball came and Zishan swung clumsily and missed. The bowler again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Zishan. As the ball came in, Zishan swung at the ball and hit a ‘high ball’ right to the fielder.

The game should’ve been over there and then. The fielder could’ve easily caught the ball and Zishan would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the fielder dropped the ball, and proceeded to throw it right over the bowler’s head, out of reach of all his team mates. Everyone from the bench and both teams started yelling, ‘Zishan, Run! Run!’ Never in his life had Zishan ever run that far, he scampered across the pitch, wide-eyed and startled, but he made it to the opposite end of the pitch.

As his bat crossed the line, his team-mates rushed in, and hauled him up on their shoulders. Everyone suddenly burst into cheer about the hero who had won the game for his team.
‘That day”, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.

Zishan didn’t make it to another summer. He died soon after, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

Readings that work

The other day we had a beautiful evening at the Wits Writing Centre. We had planned a small party for our writing consultants and to welcome Mbongisi, returned briefly from studying African philosophy in Kansas, Retsepile returned perhaps for longer from her jet-setting writing career in London, Mehita returned from lecturing at London University to Wits and Beth returned from freelance journalism in Johannesburg. So we had much to celebrate as well as the recent PhD for Thabisani. It also happened to be the shortest day of the year and national short story day. So, in addition to the cheese and wine, we asked the mentor protégé group to entertain us with readings from the People Power collection.

 And to my mind it was perfect: people happy to see each other, returning to a familiar space, interested in the work of their friends. It wasn’t very planned but everything seemed to work.

How do we have more readings like this? Events which are not initiated by the PR departments of big institutions but which are firstly a party and then an interest in hearing about recent creative travels? As a meeting of friends it wasn’t public. But could we take the friends’ meeting as a kernel, so as to grow the group in some organic way and so make it more public? Word of mouth, even if it is via facebook, invitation from someone you know, seems to be the best way to get a receptive and engaged audience. The subsequent performance or reading, needs then a created space in which no one person or view dominates. A space or moment which allows imagination to grow through juxtaposition and dialogue.

Readings from the mentor protégé group were the focus of our party on June 21st and their writings are getting better and better. I think the group is benefitting from Allan’s experience and strong writing, from Kgaogelo’s experiments with mixing languages and representing violence, Mbongisi’s relentless intellectualism and quirkiness, from Vuyo’s wickedness and punch, from Dina’s cleverness in capturing Jo’burg conversations. These writers and their writings are developing at least partly in dialogue and finding their voice against each other.

I’d like to celebrate the mentor protégé group and tell you to read their writings and come to the next party/event. Perhaps we can find alternatives to the cliques and ghettos by nourishing our writers and ourselves with open meetings of developing voices, which are respectful, inclusive and creative.

Nationalisation talk – a big question mark

How many chances does a party need to prove itself? In the face of dissatisfaction, much unhappiness and agitation on the part of the masses expressed in service delivery protests and the inroads made by the main opposition party in black communities, the ANC in the form of the ANCYL is stepping up its rhetoric to appeal to the masses. But then the ANC has always been a party of rhetoric; and, the rhetoric has, in the past, worked wonders. The agitation expressed in communities and threats of greater opposition strength are signs that South African masses are now beginning to question their loyalty to the ANC.

What is the ANC’s response? Rhetoric! Rhetoric! And more rethoric! How does the ANC, in the form of the ANCYL respond? Nationalisation and expropriation without compensation! A policy position, clearly, not in line with the ideology and politics of the sitting president of the country.

Instead of being easily impressionable, we must, at this stage of our evolution as a nation, begin to ask ourselves searching questions. Was it not the ANC and, in particular, the ANCYL, that sold us Ntate Zuma as a people’s person? Was it not the ANCYL that convinced us that Ntate Zuma is the one we have been waiting for; a leader in tune with the pulse and heartbeat of the poor and economically excluded black majority; in contrast to his predecessor, presented as “aloof, stubborn, intellectual and English?” Was Ntate Zuma not presented by the ANCYL as the type with the wherewithal to listen to people and the capacity to usher in a new era of delivery, accelerated transformation, equality and peace?

Given the ANCs capacity to raise and dash hopes we must now probe: on what basis should we embrace the current nationalisation rhetoric as an expression of deep commitment to a people? Is this not another trick played on us? Is this not another ploy on the part of the ANC to entrench its hold on power?

Around the Corner

Ten year old Nooruddeen stared impatiently at the clock. Two minutes to go, he watched as the second hand ticked its way steadily round in almost slow motion. At last the bell rang and the entire school ruptured with the sound of squeaking chairs and running footsteps.

He sprang from his chair and darted for the door. He ran home, not even noticing the street cricket game that the neighbourhood kids had begun to play. When he reached home, he ate the sandwich, which his mom had prepared, and quietly went to his room to start on his homework. His mom noticed that her son was not really being his usual playful self, and tapped on the room door.

“Is everything alright? You’ve been very quiet since you got home.”

“I’m fine, mom. Just doing my homework. Please let me know when dad gets home from work.” her son replied.

His mom’s curiosity grew, but she accepted the response, and decided to start on supper.

The afternoon went by quite quickly, and the little boy’s father was soon home. Nooruddeen was out of his room, before his mom informed him of his dad’s return. He opened the door just as his dad turned the key. His dad greeted him with a smile; he knew his son had something on his mind.

As his father laid down his bag, and handed mom the bag of goodies she had requested, his father asked, “How is it, son? How was school?

Nooruddeen replied, “School was good, dad. I actually wanted to let you know that I passed the Math test with an A…”

Dad responded pleased, “ Good stuff!”

His son added, “Remember you promised that I could ask for anything if I passed well.”

His dad’s face cast a knowing smile and he replied, “ Yes, I do. What do you want, son, you’ve earned it. Name it?’

Nooruddeen promptly responded, “ All I want is to shave my head.”

His mom, who had been quietly listening to the exchange between father and son, let out a little laugh. The father’s brow furrowed, and he asked with feigned confusion, “ Err, what did you say?”

His mom heard him, all right, and began frantically ranting about how the youth of today were so impressionable, and this was only the beginning of worse to come.

All the while the little boy, listened, and waited for his mom to finish. He then repeated, “ Dad, you promised me ‘anything’, and I would like to shave my head bald, please.”

The father protested in vain, “ I know I said that, but I assumed you would want a bike or something reasonable, not this”

His mom then jumped in, “ You can’t be serious?”

The little boy remained unmoved, “ This is all I am asking for.”

The father stared at his son , and gave in, much to the dismay of his wife. That said and done, the next day, the father accompanied his son to the local barber.

On the way there, thoughts of dread were coiled in his mind. He could not figure out what they, as parents, had done wrong. He looked at his son, walking beside him…for the first time he did know what Nooruddeen was thinking. This disturbed him.

As the barber began shaving Nooruddeen’s head, he looked curiously at the boy’s father, who pretended not to notice and flipped a magazine. In less than ten minutes, it was all over. Nooruddeen happily sprang out of the chair, and ran his hand over his clean-shaven head, quite pleased with himself, as he went out the door and waited for his dad.

As his father stepped out, he noticed another little boy, head shaven too, and a man approaching them from around the corner. The boy seemed to know his son, and was clearly impressed with his son’s new hairstyle. The man, who appeared to be the boy’s father, spoke at this point to him, “You should be very proud of your son…” Nooruddeen’s dad was bewildered and asked,” Whatever do you mean?”

The man smiled and said,” My son was diagnosed with cancer and had been attending chemotherapy sessions, which caused him to lose all his hair. He had been having a rough time at school. All the other kids were teasing him pretty badly. Your son just told him, not to worry, he would sort it out.”

Low fat love

I dont want

Watered down
lack lustre

Luke warm

Medium rare
Not quite crispy

Half empty
Low fat

Give me

Full cream


Runneth over
Full cream

It’s not worth it if it’s not full cream

My Hat Collection

I have many hats. I wear them very proudly. Some hats I only wear for short periods of time, others I wear for longer and spend more time perfecting them. For example, my daughter-in-law hat, it doesn’t match any of my clothes, its ill fitting and very much “not me”. But I wear it on birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries. I pretend to enjoy it and sometimes I do, but mostly, it’s too small and makes my head itch.

My wife hat is one I am still learning to wear, but I look so good in it. People stare at me in amazement when I wear it. They ogle it and touch it. They comment on how spectacular it is. It makes me feel unique and special. It fits me perfectly. The colours and textures of my wife hat are magnificent. They blend well and they bring out the sparkle in my eye. My wife hat makes me smile whenever I wear it. There are days though, when my hat annoys me, which is very normal for wife hats.

My wife loves it when I wear my sex goddess hat and nothing else. I only wear it for her. Don’t get me wrong, others have seen it, but she’s the only one I wear it for now. She’s the one who brings it out in me. In fact, before her, it was just a sex hat, she helped me sculpt and mould it to what it is today. When I wear my sex goddess hat, I feel like a purring tigress. Like a wild woman, free from bondage and inhibitions. This hat is red with black lace. It’s a work of art. It makes me feel sensual; it brings out the sexy in my smile. I get goosebumps all over when I wear it.

My mother hat is the one I wear the most and love the best. It was made for my head. When I wear it, I feel strong. It’s the hat in which I learn the most. And boy, do I learn?! I learn about boundaries, about unconditional love, about acceptance, about pure joy and I learn a lot about SpongeBob Squarepants and Barney. I need energy when I wear this hat. I need to be able to run around, jump up and down, climb things, have things climb me and generally be a jungle gym. I smile a lot when I wear my mother hat. I giggle, tickle, roll on the ground and laugh out loud, A LOT! My mother hat is cool, I will have two mother hats someday, but for now I am perfecting the one I have. My mother hat is cute too. The cutest hat you’ll ever encounter. Ask anyone!

Then there’s my lesbian hat. I like this one. I’ve shared it with many other women. It’s well worn. I’ve been around the block a few times sporting this hat. It’s like my security blanket. It comforts me. I’ve done some crazy things in my lesbian hat. The stories it would tell! It’s seen things. I’ve worn it to marches and rallies. I wore it to poetry circles, clubs, parades and more clubs. I’ve worn it to softball, soccer and rugby matches. I wear it to work and at home with the people I love. I feel proud when I wear it. I feel a deep sense of belonging around other women who wear lesbian hats. I feel a sense of camaraderie, a sense of being bound to others because we wear the same hat. I have listened to coming out stories, told my story and cried so many times wearing my lesbian hat. My lesbian hat is one I will always wear, to show other people that wearing it is not wrong. To show people that my lesbian hat fits me perfectly, just as yours fits you. Come to think of it, I am always wearing this hat, even when I wear others.

Then there’s my poet hat. This hat and I go way back. It took a while for me to recognize that this hat is mine. I denied it for many years. Thought this hat wasn’t good enough to be worn. But as time went on and I spent more time wearing it, I realized that it does suite me. I realized that it looks bloody good on me. I wear it often now. And I invite others to wear it. So we get together once a month and wear our poet hats, and we share with each other. We laugh and talk and learn with each other, wearing our hats.

I long for

I long for the familiar smells of pots of stew cooking on the stove on cold winter days
Winds blustering and blowing,
Bodies reaching saturation point,
Hour long bus drives home,
Falling asleep with sheer exhaustion from the days learning.

I long for the hugs which always came when I felt the weakest
Strong, comfortable, reliable hugs,
Hugs that cushion not only the sadness, weariness and heartbreak
But those tight embraces that protect from the blows.

I long for the long holidays spent playing with siblings in the sanctity of our aloneness
The days spent being playful children, laughter permeating the walls,
Tumbles and tickles on beds that felt safe,
Days that led to nights which are not longed for,
But days that felt so good, that the dark night could come if it may.

I long for the constant stench of cigarette smoke soaked into pores
The well known fragrance of hugs and nicotine,
Not bad, not good, but familiar, real and constant,
Nervous energy infuses with the light hearted play
Causing a deep routed, life long dis-ease that lingers.

I long for the unconditional love that I called home for so long
The motherly love that nurtures and builds,
The care that made my bones strong and taught me to be a good mother,
Love that points you in the right direction, when pointing in the wrong direction seems natural.

I long for the uninhibited joy that was only allowed to surface when the monster was in the dock
The joy that made my heart feel light and carefree,
Like a child’s heart is meant to be,
The type of feelings you get when eating your favourite food, around your favourite people, talking about your favourite things,
The joy that stays in my heart and makes me love life despite all the reasons I shouldn’t.

Time as a boy

When I think about time, I see a painting of a young boy with torn shorts, dirty school shirt, cracked lips, muddy feet, waiting for his time to be loved in a green old car as his bed, waiting to be fed, his soul as pure as a diamond.


I am crossing the Karoo

The vast plains remind me about my own emptiness

Emptiness of heart

My heart is empty and broken

I am carrying a desert inside me and each drop of love you give me I soak it like a sponge.

Your love is not less; my heart is too dry for it.

I am like a Karoo soil every inch of rain soaked by it and still stays dry and harsh and beautiful

My beauty is for you but it’s dangerous, it will drain you like desert soil drain each drop of water.

I am not saying you that you go away; you stay here in my heart with me, showering your love,

The way windmills of Karoo works all days and night pumping the water in its heart,

trying to keep it moist and helping it to stand in this harsh world.

You are my windmill. You give me love and my heart needs your love more than ever,

when I am crossing this Karoo

i just want

Who do you expect me to turn to when I can’t turn to you?
What do you expect me to do when you’re love wont get me through
Can’t you see soon you’ll be pushing me into another’s arms?
And now it’s getting so hard to tell my right from wrongs

I just want you to love me, like you used to love me
I just want you to need me like you use to need me
I just want you to want me like you use to want me
I just want you to look at me like you use to look at me
I just want you to see me like you use to see me
I just want; I just want all of you

It’s late now, it cold outside but I’m feeling you tonight
I tell baby, I want you, the flame I tried to reignite
Guess your just not feeling me anymore
You said its too cold and nothing more
My jaw dropped to the floor
Never been let down before

I just want you to love me, like you used to love me
I just want you to need me like you use to need me
I just want you to want me like you use to want me
I just want you to look at me like you use to look at me
I just want you to see me like you use to see me
I just want; I just want all of you