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To Winnie Mandela in Sisterhood



Perforated eardrums.  Welts. Blisters.

The crie de coeur rising to meet

blows from the rubber whips.


Sufferings of your brothers and sisters

scraped your heart sore,

tore open fresh wounds.


Yet, upon your release

your words stripped them naked, even as

your shy smile

blossomed, like any innocent flower.



To wait 28 years to touch your husband

(By then, you and he grandparents!)

Is the stuff of myth,

Countering myths of the other:

"savage, brute, driven by lust" --

flesh denied flesh:

your fierce chastity

burst the bubble

of their blame.



Calm, composed, inchoate, autochthonous as a

Luba sculpture:

the chiseled nose, the full cheeks, the

curved brows,

grace of Makonde ebony

high holiness of the Bakota reliquary


When we speak we will speak in codes

We will dance a dance of liberation

with zoomorphic wood mask

and sacred python helmet mask---

burlap, fibers, glass beads...

When peace comes, Winnie, as sisters,

we will sit down and take up womanly arts

design and dye adire eleko

create tapestries soaked with blue-black indigo,

rich ochre, green, blue-green---

celebrate life in every incarnation.

The dancer, drummer, masque, hunter,

palmwine tapper---

dance among lions, snakes, elephants,

lizards, frogs, monkeys, macaws---

all under broad-leafed trees.



Until then our song will be:

We will not suffer

We will not suffer the guilt of the woman who cries

"Is it I that have brought death?"

We will not suffer

We will not suffer the guilt of the

child who cried

"Is it I have brought death to earth?"


No we will defy and tell the truth, we will tell

how the sparrow has been killed, we will tell

how the sparrow's throat has been cut

we will tell and we shall demand to know

how is it, how is it that you got it into your head

that you, Mr. Boer, are a lord?


The sparrow has been killed!

And will our mothers be left to die like pigs?

We will tell and we will defy and shout over the

last lost grave at Dimbaza:


Mother, do not cry for us, Mother do not cry for us;

Mother, do not bury us in a dunghill,

Mother, do not bury us among the raffia grass;

Mother , do not bury us in some forest;

Mother we have defied

Mother, we no longer sit with painful thoughts

Mother, we sing the song of the Beti workman

"The cannons are broken, run

quickly, the cannons are broken, all you,

come and run quickly"

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