Write Stuff: Poetry by Tawona Sithole

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The man behind art group Seeds of Change, poet and playwright Tawona Sithole, shares his evocative work, taking us back to his school days and on to consider the poetry of life

once in a while i hear the comment

you speak good english

in my school days it was a compliment

but at some point it got a bit complicated

i have good memories

of school

though i cannot remember exactly

what period we got history

or why geography kept getting

moved around

though i can remember

english came aftermath

of a hectic hectic

timetable

learning english was

easy at first

but at some point

it got a bit

complicated

some of my peers got

a little fierce

in the determination to

speak good english

i wish this good english

was good enough

to translate the shock of

hearing

people mispronouncing their own

names

in order to sound more english

i wish this good english was good

enough

for untwisting of the tongue-tied

bristly brush to briskly brush

themselves aside

i really could have done with a better

student’s companion

to clarify some questions of spelling

was it supposed to be copying or

coping

we were meant to be doing

and where was that trusty student’s

companion

to detect silent letters and other

landmines

just waiting to burst into laughter

humiliation nicknames and other

dramatic grammatic shrapnel

embedded in so many innocent

victims

i really could have done with a better

student’s companion

to clarify some issues of

pronunciation

was it supposed to be a minute

silence

we were meant to be observing

to reflect on our loss

reflect on our neglect

what happened to my mother tongue

my tongue mother

but nowhere to start

or how to react

so it’s just a smile

a little awkward smile

my euphemism for words

every so often i hear the comment

you speak good english

i wish this good english was good enough

to persuade the easily-swayed

to stop living the shame way

i wish this good english was good enough

to calm the hysteria what about

the pre-set re-set incessant alarm

that shattered my dreams

my pre-school dream

of elders taking care of everything

before it became all uniform

on the assembly line

blazer basher blazer basher

on the assembly line

shut up sit down stand up sit down

on the assembly line

pray sing pray sing

shut up sit down stand up sit down

pull up your socks tuck in your shirt

and fix your tie

weak arms twisted by the brutish

on the assembly line

no more freestyle freestyle

but specified hairstyle hairstyle

single file single file into the classy

room

in order to be classified as educated

i try to say something nice

instead it’s just a smile

that little awkward smile

my euphemism for words

sooner or later i get to hear the

comment

you speak good english

i wish this good english was good

enough

to uncomplicate this compliment

good enough to politely object to

comparisons

with “what’s-his-name” from

“what’s-it-called”

or “what’s-her-name” from “what’s

it-called”

back in the back of the mind

nostalgia of my conditioning

it’s that “what’s-it-called” from

“what’s-it-called”

oh yeah, good english

i wish this good english was good

enough

to modulate this frequent flush rush

of mush

invading my inner field of vision

but here is just a simple meeting of

people

and besides

etiquette is adequate

so it’s just a smile

that little awkward smile

my euphemism for words

i wonder when i’ll next hear the

comment

you speak good english

i wish this good english will be good

enough

to express the simplicity of humility

within the complexity of society

the scribblings are there and i am

where

sprinkling inklings of my humanity

and again like the ancestors

keep praying for rain

so that next time i hear the

complicated compliment

you speak good english

i’ll be ready to react

probably with a smile

that awkward little smile

my euphemism for words

✑ ✑ ✑ ✑

Truthfully

betepesu

i hear the butterfly

joy i enjoy listening

i see the butterfly

joy i enjoy glistening

beauty of the sun

i see

not in its face

but in all things it brings to light

wonderful to know

in nature is the truth

Look–alikes

in the fight for acceptability

look-alikes can be hard to pull apart

but devoted eyes see to it

easy-to-assemble build-yourself kit

to tan the hide for the best whip

muscle-bound frame found bound

with the invisible chain of insatiable

gain

free from freedom

and the burden of liberty

✑ ✑ ✑ ✑

Hero with no name

deep in rhetoric

lies a hero

with no impact

no reputation

no status

a hero with no name

far from the limelight

in the blind spot of history

rests a hero

a hero with no face

no significance

a hero with no fame

completely out of view

out of the camera shot

resides a hero

with no relevance

a hero with no acclaim

hidden behind the calendar

is a day

a day without a date

without celebration

without fuss

no commemoration

a day for the hero

hero with no name

✑ ✑ ✑ ✑

The poetry of life

the poetry of life does not rhyme

not in the way words neatly combine

to connect dots into a punch line

or the way sentences elaborately

intertwine

to join twisting limbs of the

grapevine

the poetry of life does often chime

in the way raindrops randomly

collide

to connect clear dots into storylines

or the way veins intricately

intertwine

to join the natural flow of bloodlines

going back and forward in time

going back forward and back to the

first line

the poetry of life does not rhyme

✑ ✑ ✑ ✑

See me

see me in the light

see me in the dark

see me as you like

see me as you please

see me as you wish

see me as a profile

the official stereotype

see me through the lens

of pitiful photography

the unofficial stereotype

see me through the eyes of history

propaganda of the past

see me as you’ve been told

see me as you’ve heard

now see for yourself

see me as you see me

see me as i see myself

see me as i am

✑ ✑ ✑ ✑

Slow burning tales

that’s the man

the man’nequin

stands eloquently

in a window of opportunity

busy catching gazes

can’t excuse such excuses

the man kind

he just isn’t

it shows on his melting grin

his melting chin

it’s those slow burning tales

shaky equilibrium

about to fall off the scales

and on the other hand

that’s the lady

the lady just’is

sits articulately

on a seat of power

busy charging batteries

can’t adjust what just is

the lady like

she just isn’t

it shows in her smoking habit

her smoking habitat

it’s those slow burning tales

shaky equilibrium

about to fall off the scales

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Better known as Ganyamatope (his ancestral family name) Tawona Sithole’s heritage of storytelling inspires him to make connections with other people through creativity, and the natural outlook to learn. Poet, playwright, mbira musician and educator, Tawona is co-founder of the Seeds of Thought arts group in Glasgow. Based at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, the group is a free, fun and supportive space for creative writing and performance. As well as working as a freelance artist and in collaboration with many organisations, he is currently poet/playwright consultant on the AHRC-funded ‘Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, Body, Law and the State’ project at the University of Glasgow.