Author Archive

PAY DAY HELL

November 6, 2008

A few years back, when hyper inflation first started rearing its ugly head in my country, witnessed backyard money lending quickly establishing itself as also one of the country’s leading business ventures.  The other businesses of this ilk that were also thriving in this environment were dealing in foreign currency on the illegal (black) market, human trafficking, and, if you were a government employee, just plain old corruption. This poem is dedicated to all unwitting victims of the Shylocks of the world

 

Pay Day Hell

 

Today is pay day

But for poor me

It is Hell Day –

So I have lived to see.

 

It weighs heavily on my mind this day

So sluggish and suffocating is the air

Even the vocal birds are not singing this stormy morning

They sit on the electricity line

Shoulders hunched as if in mourning.

 

The telephone squats at the corner so silent

A sickening punch to the tummy

Is its ring on this day sometimes so funny.

 

And the unannounced visitor

Standing at the doorway

To hell and back

Takes the frightened heart wildly racing.

 

***

 

 

But, despite all the adversity that we sometimes are faced with, God gave life a gift called Spring, where the mopane tree shall give bud, and from where all our dreams shall spring forth, and the world resound to love, song, and dance…

  

Spring Flower

 

 Branches supple

And buds swollen tight

With all the aching agony

Of a new spirited life

And the sweet laughter

Of fresh petals in infancy O!

When frail butterflies iridescent

Daintily flutter past with the gay scents

And all the invigorating bursts

Of the vivid sunlight of my spring…

 

….singing down the beaten dust track

Softly coiling into the sunset mopane trees

Their wafting petticoats a luminous green

Stiffly pointing at the blue sky

With erect spears of echoing melancholy

Of nice sunny days gone by

Of more pursuing

Of more sunny days still to come by

 

Of dreamy creamy petals floating

Of heavens showering misty confetti drizzles

Of green fantasies wildly sprouting out into the roseate light

All the heavenly birds not singing the beauty of nature

But shrieking for all life’s worth

Transcendent beyond earthly song and dance

You laughing and whispering –

Be the mopane flower of my spring

End

 

It truly was good to be blogging for the Poetry International 2008.  I am humbled, not to mention the spiritual enrichment that I feel part of in the higher creative arts sphere that all lovers of literature, be it writers, performers, or the audience, all belong to. Ngiyabonga.

AN AFRICAN LITERARY FORUM

November 3, 2008

 

 

A NEW INTERNATIONAL LITERARY CONFERENCE LAUNCHED.

 www.panafricanliteraryforum.org

In the month of July I had the occasion to attend the launch of the Pan African Literary Forum (PALF) in Accra, Ghana, which is a new player in the international literary movement. 

PALF was founded in 2006 by a group of writers and educators from the continent and the Diaspora.  These writers and educators believed that they could make a difference by starting an international organisation to help African writers and those of African descent worldwide with training resources, publication, marketing and representation. PALF has its aesthetic and philosophical underpinnings in the writings and activism of W.E. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Frantnz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, and the many others who partnered to see that African and Caribbean writers were published, and furthered the struggle for democratic representation for African people worldwide. Also of concern to PALF is the historical under-representation and marginalisation of African and African Diaspora writers in the global literary community.  The organisers announced that in the future PALF will host a series of annual conferences, and students will engage with established writers and literary professionals in a series of workshops, seminars and discussions uniquely focussed on both issues of craft (the art of writing well) and literary professionalism (the business of getting published) to provide developing writers with the extra push they need to achieve publication.  Conferences will also feature excursions to historical sites, artistic events and informal gatherings, all designed to promote cross cultural dialogue.

The key note address was given by South African Poet Laureate, Professor Willie Kgositsile, who is also the Special Advisor to South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr. Z. Pallo Jordan. In his address, amongst many other issues, he bemoaned the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa against foreigners, and concluded with readings from some of his poetry, which were well received by the audience.

The Executive Director of PALF is Professor Jeffery Renard Allen, who earned a Ph.D in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Illinois, and is currently an instructor in the graduate writing program at the The New School for Social Research in the United States Of America.  He is published in both poetry and prose, and has won several awards for his books, amongst which are the Whiting Writer’s Awards, the Chicago Public Library’s Twenty-First Century Award, and the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction.

This is a more than welcome development for writers on the continent because of its general lack of educational resources (such as the Masters if Fine Arts programmes in creative writing found at many USA and European universities) and limited access to important resources like literary journals, agents, publishing companies and grant making foundations, and also of the fact that non-African readers and writers everywhere have been long deprived of the rich variety of voices and viewpoints to be found within the Pan African Literary traditions.

 

 

MORNING CALL

November 1, 2008

In May of this year, a few days after the launch of my first book, a short story collection titled DANCING WITH LIFE AND OTHER SHORT STORIES (www.africanbookscollective.com/authors-editors/christophermlalazi), a stage play I co-wrote with a fellow writer, and titled THE CROCODILE OF ZAMBEZI, was banned by our government a day after the opening night, but after the production manager had been abducted by two secret police, taken to the bush out of the city and tortured. 

 

     PEN American Center – Rapid Action Alert Archive

 – Oct 29

PEN strongly protests attacks against the cast and crew of satirical play The Crocodile of Zambezi and its banning by the police in Bulawayo.
www.pen.org/printpage.php/prmID/1610 – 42k – CachedSimilar pagesNote this

 

The poem I am posting today, which I wrote last night, has been inspired by this incident, and the power sharing deal between our ruling party and our two main opposition parties, of which we are still waiting the results of, after two long and nerve wracking months…we are fed up!

 

MORNING CALL

 

It is very silent

On the surface

Of the Zambezi River

But deep underneath

A cyclone surges

Threatening to erupt

And engulf us once again

In vengeful crocodiles

And dawn disappearances

 

 

 

Ode To Xmas (It’s around the corner!)

October 31, 2008

In my corner of the continent (Zimbabwe), things can get so hectic sometimes that one ends up losing sense of time – you are tottering around grim faced thinking deeply about surviving the today (bread queue, fuel queue, money queue) and you get a nudge – its tomorrow reminding you that hey I am here come on get out of the past and ‘ live’ in me also before you fall into a burst sewer. This is where for me music has a special place, as a reminder of other spirit elevating moments of life if politics has got you too pinned down to remember dates clearly. 

 

I remember bonus time, and the thirteenth cheque, once when I was still employed – yuwi!  This windfall usually came in the month of November, and oh how happy we would be to pay off debts we had accrued over the year, and also buy new fancy clothes for family that they would dance in come Christmas day.  Not to be outdone, this was the month that most clever musicians released new music albums, and one would truly know that – YO!Christmas was around the corner…

  

Ode to Christmas

The gramophone was positioned

Under the marula tree

In front of the red brick house

And, one two three

They all trooped out.

 

Mama in Nike sneakers

And a blue evening dress

That flashed bright strobes of light

As it caught the afternoon sun

A wicket slit on its side.

 

Papa is brand new

Bright orange miner’s helmet

A Spiderman t-shirt

And bell bottoms that teased the puppy.

 

Then next was son

In full khakhi school uniform

Smartly pressed

And gumbooted.

 

And O how they danced that day

They wildly swung their arms

As feet gone mad harassed the dust

And they all fervently cried out one word

 

‘Ikhisimusi’

 

Where Will They Be On Xmas day?

 

 

 

 As our children
stare wide eyed
at glass cases of sweets
that their poor fathers
can no longer afford to buy for them
to sweeten their Xmas days –
where will the shefs* be on that day?

 

As mothers patch old clothes
that their children can cover their buttocks

and their husbands their crotches

between their perforated trouser legs

 

As cockroaches threaten mutiny
inside bare cupboards
faced by the beautiful face of hunger
in houses where once voices laughed
on sunny Xmas days –
where will the shefs be on that day
with their looted public funds?

                  ***

*shef – party big shots

A Soundless Song

October 30, 2008

A frozen wave from the roadside

Between the dreamy trees marching backwards

 

A goat mercilessly tearing

At the petticoats of a tree unable to flee

 

Bloated cows crunching mouthfuls

Of helplessly trembling verge side grass

 

A boyman sitting on the coiling trunk

Of a fallen tree gone dry

Plucking on the fishing twine strings

Of a tin banjo

A soundless song for you as you drive past

Forever Travelling

October 30, 2008

Termites massed
forever curving away
along the red dust
of the country track
their destination
their departure

 

 

The Valleys Of Denial

October 30, 2008

Whose language is this

That resides on the tip

Of my tongue, my pen and page

When the word void I invade

 

Which snakes

Across the waves

Of the  searching blue

That buffets the baobabs and boulders

As it bounces through the villages

Of my wandering essence

 

Whose language is this

That spins in circles

Across my tongue and lips

And leaps out

Like the blast of ship’s horns

That sang their songs of arrival

When I was still a seed

In yonder valleys of denial?

All Our Cowards

October 29, 2008

Tyranny still snarls
It’s fangs are vicious comets
Youth militia that stones at change
As what should be cowers in fear
In the bosoms of all our cowards

The Power Sharing Deal (Zimbabwe – September 2008)

October 29, 2008

Those three hands shaking
And up from them
Three arms tentacling
In dark suit jackets encased
To three faces
Flashing white teeth
That tell nothing
Of the political thought
As that stone of the sky up there
Forever entombing us all

The River Of Life

October 29, 2008

This was supposed to be my first post, but I posted it wrongly, and when I tried to correct things, I saved it without without publishing – but, thanks to Lucy, I think I now know my way around the blog.

I must say it is an honor to be blogging for the 2008 Poetry International Festival, and this done from far away, but yet cyber near, Zimbabwe

This post is a short story that brought change to my writing career. When I wrote it, I just wanted to write something crazy, just to break away for a moment from ‘normal’ writing before it drove me crazy, and see what I would achieve. The story was inspired by a dream – one night I dreamt I was seeing a burning star screaming in a race over the rooftops of Emakhandeni township, where I live. I must say I woke up in palpitations, and straight away decided to make that the basis of my story – the rest was pure imagination.

When the story was eventually finished, after about a year of rewriting, I submitted it for the 2004 Sable/Arvon Short Story contest, and it received the Highly Recommended citation – but after it had been deemed as unbelievable by friends. Even after the citation, I sent it around to publishers for about four years, and every time I would meet a rejection, until it was published in 2008 by the Textualities Online Magazine http://textualities.net/writers/creative-writing/mlalazic01.php, of whom I am very thankful to.

Pleas take a dive with me into the river of life…

THE RIVER OF LIFE

A star seared across the dark sky – then, without sound, it quickly exploded, sending lemon streaks of flame spurting in all directions, almost lazily.

In the white centre of the explosion, a human being appeared, hurtling towards the glowing orb of the earth in a graceful dive, its naked body haloed by a golden light.

It plunged into a deep pool below a waterfall that savagely roared down a steep cliff. Water exploded upwards where it disappeared, the spray curling outwards.

A yellow full moon serenely sailed the sky, gazing down from its lofty height at another similar moon that danced in solitude in the middle of this pool.

Suddenly, the moon in the pool erupted upwards in another shower of spray, and where it had been, the human being surfaced, its head bobbing up and down in the water.

The human being had a face, but no facial features. It also had no hair, or ears, but just a smooth round dome that glistened brightly with water as it caught the sparkling night light.

The sky moon slowly brightened. Then, a yellow beam shot from its body, shafted through the darkness towards the head in the river, and fastened on it.

Slowly, slowly, the moon beam whirled around the head, whirling with it, so that the head faced to the east, to the north, to the west, to the south, and finally to the east again.

When the head had completed a full circle, its face had grown eyes, a nose, a mouth, a pair of ears, and a full mop of hair. The face looked up at the moon and smiled, a dazzling smile full of all the beauty of creation.

The human being raised its hand out of the water and grabbed the moonbeam that bathed its new face. It jerked it down – and all the stars in the sky exploded as one in a kaleidoscope of vivid colours.

Where the stars had been there appeared countless, faceless human beings, racing earthwards in graceful dives, their bodies halloed by a golden light. They were all heading towards the river where the first human being stood neck deep, its eyes two welcoming red beacons in the darkness.

At dawn, when the still invincible sun spread its rosy fingers across the belly of the sky, and a thick mist rose up from the jungle to welcome it, the white sands of the northern bank of the river were crowded stiff with all varieties of jungle animals, staring wide eyed at the strange heads that bobbed in the middle of the water. The eyes on all the heads were closed. A light breeze was blowing.

A cock flapped its wings and crowed. As if on cue, the eyes on all the heads opened and fastened on the animals on the bank, hungry. Just then, the sun peeped its purple eye from behind the serrated top of a mountain in the far distance.

Instinctively, and as one, the animals whirled around from the bank and crashed into the jungle, their flight riotous with terrified cries, barks, screeches, hoots and roars.

All the birds on the trees that hung over the river shrieked in alarm and took off into the sky in bursts of colourful wings.

The Star People walked out of the river, their naked bodies glistening with water.

They were all perfectly limbed, well muscled, but provided with no sexual organs, except for their leader, who was shaped as a woman. She was the first to step on dry land.

She turned around and faced the river. As the rest of the sexless Star People stepped out of the water, she grunted and touched their smooth brows lightly with a finger, and turned some to the right, and some to the left, where they grouped silently, their eyes on her.

Those she turned to the left immediately grew male organs on their blank crotches, and all those she turned to the right grew female organs, and their chests swelled to become two perfectly rounded breasts.

One by one, she carefully inspected the seeding tools of her people, tugging here, probing with a finger there, and she discovered that there were no imperfections, or infections. They were all ready for increase.

The Star People stood in two groups on either side of her, all silently staring at her. She sank down into a squat, closed her eyes, and her face screwed up in effort. There was a peal of thunder.

She stood up, scooped her faeces from the sand with her hands and threw them into the river. As they plopped, a small dark cloud slid over the staring sun. It suddenly rained furiously; then abruptly stopped again. The cloud had disappeared.

The Star People all looked up at the cerulean sky, beatific smiles on their faces.

They turned around and walked into the jungle, following a well-used dinosaur track.

Their skins were all colourless, and their tongues knew no words…