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CMDR/UWC CREATES Sindiwe Magona Literary Prize Winners Announced

Author: Institutional Advancement: (021) 959 2625

UWC CREATES, the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research​ and UWC’s Writer in Residence, the award.........

CMDR/UWC CREATES Sindiwe Magona Literary Prize Winners Announced​

UWC CREATES, the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research​ and UWC’s Writer in Residence, the award-winning Sindiwe Magona, recently held its second CMDR/UWC CREATES Sindiwe Magona Literary Prize Competition where winners had the opportunity to share their creative works and stand a chance to win R1000.


The theme of the competition this year was Iphupha Elirhoxisiweyo/ A Dream Deferred /‘n Droom Verskuif. The theme was formulated by Magona and in English it has its origin in Langston Hughes's poem, Harlem. Students who entered the competition had to submit an original work of poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction or translation in Afrikaans, English or Xhosa dealing with the theme.


“The purpose of such a competition is to gather the products of talented students on an equal basis and to have it judged by an outside "eye". Winning this competition therefore not only gives you a little bit of money, it becomes something to put on one's cv - a physical stamp that you have created something of special quality.” said prof Antjie Krog, one of the organisers of the competition.


The poetry and prose winners are as follow:


Poetry winners

Elton Juries (Afrikaans poetry),

Angelique Thomas (English Poetry)

Sivatho “Dira” Rigala (isiXhosa Poetry)


Prose winners

Tsepiso Nzayo  (isiXhosa Prose)

Jolyn Philips  (Afrikaans Prose)

Phyllis Orner (English Prose)


Here is an exclusive look at the award-winning poetry and prose:


droë stompe  (Elton Juries)

die reuk van Jean Paul Gaulthiër parfuum

op my hoody-top

en nog ’n reuk ontlas

uit die drein

op die kole-as van grond is

boontjietamboekiegras aan’t uitbloei

in die silwersee lig see-meeue suggereer

verby die lekkerbreekboom

die huilboom stompe kniel konsensieus

asof hulle kommer

oor die kaal wonderboom

daar oorkant om blare uit te boei

bo-kant die ingangsdeur

staan ’n bord

met wit vet-gedrukte-maer-woorde

Die wind verwarm en withalskraai en versamelvoël

chirp saam mekaar soos mense wat geselskap voer

terwyl die lig agter die wolke

wegsteek-wegsteek kyk na die afgekapte bruin bedroewe droë stompe



Langston (Angelique Thomas)

Langston came and sat down and asked me if a dream dries up when deferred and I laughed. Yes, I laughed with Langston in the light of the candle before us. He realised I had been laughing with a genuine undertone of sarcasm at his madness. So he asked if like a sore it festers then runs, and my face straightened up as did my legs before him.

I wanted to say “Meneer, rêrig?” But I soon realised that such a tone wouldn’t be acceptable to Mr Hughes let alone a language the man had never come to know.

He looked at me and he shrugged “maybe it just sags like a heavy load”

And I told him there and then that dreams had been deferred for centuries, heck! he wrote about the very people whose dreams had been placed deeper than the graves of the ones who had gone before. But their dreams still linger.

I recalled the dreams that sat in prison cells, that sit in squatter camps. Breathing but never able to expand the full use of its lungs.

Waiting there

Paused

Waiting for who?

“maybe it explodes!” exclaims Langston

Maybe mister or maybe we have to start running. Not away.

Towards.

And once we start our lungs will feel a deep, deep heaviness released.

I blew out the candle. Totsiens Meneer Hughes. Ek gaan my tekkies nou aantrek.

LIZWE LAMAPHUPHA AM, NCEDA NDILINDE   

(Sivatho “Dira” Rigala)

Umxholo          : Impupha elirhoxisiweyo

Ndiyacondoba, ndiyeza.

Ndiza ndingxamile, nto nje iintshutshiso ziyandibambezela.

Ukuba bekusiya ngokunokwam, ngesele ndifikile.

Lizwe lamaphupha am, nceda ndilinde.

Asele befikile kuwe bayandirhalisela.

Ndibabonela mgama loo ndebe beyiphakamisele phezulu, bebhiyoza.

Ndithi mehlo am aluzizi, ncedani, bonani nibukele;

Kambe ngenye imini loo ndebe noyibonela kufutshane.

Lizwe lamaphupha am, nceda ndilinde.

Abasemva kwam bayandileqa!

Kule ndlela imagada ahlabayo ndiyanyamezela.

Ukuphephana neentolo endleleni yam kundityele ixesha.

Ukubalekana neenkxwaleko kunditshonisele ngamalanga.

Lizwe lamaphupha am, nceda ndilinde.

Bendimane ndikubonela mgama,

Okwelanga lingcangca ezintabeni, bendikubonela mgama;

Zithi neembandezelo zakundikha ezantsi ndivuke ndivuthulule;

Ndikhuthazeke bubuqaqawuli bakho, ndingcileze ndisondele.

Zithi neentshaba zakundijikeleza mna ndinyamezele.

Kodwa namhla uthe qelele, uxele ithamsanqa!

Lizwe lamaphupha am, khawuncede undilinde.

Ndiyazi ndikhule ndihlwempuzekile.

Ndiyazi ndikhule ndihlelelekile.

Ndiyazi ndikhule ndiyintlekisa.

Bendisithi ndiyokubamba ndingakuyeki.

Bendisithi ndiyokwenza isixhobo sotshintsha ikhaya lam.

Bendisithi ndiyokwenza isixhobo sofezekisa amanye amaphupha am.

Kodwa namhlanje uliphupha eliliphupha.

Uphuncuke ezandleni, ndashiyeka ndizilenca imilebe esidlangalaleni.

Lizwe lamaphupha am, sundishiya, nceda ndilinde!

Ebendikhula nabo sebefikile kuwe,

Sebebuvile ubuncwane bequnube lakho;

Mna ndisaxwebise umlomo, ndimgama.

Abanye babo bayandihleka bendincoma ubufede;

Kodwa ethembeni, ekunyamezeleni, nasemthandazweni,

Nokuba sele urhoxisiwe…mna ndizofikelela.

Ukonakala kwenye kukulunga kwenye  (Tsepiso Nzayo)

“Ndifuna ukuba ngumdlali wodumo.” La ngamazwi kaThamsanqa Mhlontlo, uzwathi lomfana oneminyaka elishumi elinesibhozo, onothando olungummangaliso lwebhola ekhatywayo. Akonelanga nje ukuyithanda, unaso nesiphiwo sokuyidlala. Xa eyibambile ibhola uba ngathi ngumbane ukuya kunozinti, yaye ophambi kwakhe akamazele nto. Unesantya, yaye unesakhono sokuyibamba angayiphunculi. Ngubani owayenokuma phambi kwakhe lo mfana? Wayengumbane, ngenene wayelilandele igama awayelinikwe ngabahlobo bakhe nababembiza ngalo, uThunder. YayinguThamsanqa “Thunder” Mhlontlo. Kwakududuma akuyibamba ibhola.

UThamsanqa lo wazalelwe kwifama yaseGqume kude kufuphi nesixeko saseRhini. Kulapho uthando lwakhe lwebhola ekhatywayo lwaqala lwaze lwakhula khona. Nanjengaye nawuphi na umntwana oyindodana osakhulayo, ebesithi xa ebuya esikolweni aye kudlala nabanye abantwana ebaleni. Iibhola zazisenziwa ngeengxowa ezibomvu zee-orenji bazihlohle amaphepha. Kwasekukhuleni kwakhe ke uThamsanqa wayeyinkwenkwe enamendu, la mendu ke ayemsebenzela kulo mdlalo.

Wayeneziphiwo ke uThamsanqa nanjengoko wayekrelekrele kakhulu ezincwadini, ezinika ingqwalasela. Loo nto ke yaye yamenza ukuba abe ngomnye wabafundi abathandwayo yaye abaqwalaselwayo ngootishala. Ebengumfundi ongonqeniyo ukuyimisa iklasi ebuza imibuzo, ukuzama ukunceda nabo bangahle bathi kanti bebengekayichani into leyo ifundiswayo.

Ukufi kelela kumabanga aphezulu kwaba ngamatshe kulo mfana, nanjengoko waye waliphumelela emagqabini ibanga lethoba. Ngenxa yokuba kule fama wayehlala kuyo isikolo esifundisa amabanga aphakamileyo sasingenazo zonke izixhobo ezifunekayo kwafuneka ukuba aye kuhlala nezizalwane zakhe eRhini. Injongo yayikukumlungiselela ukuba akwazi ukufumana uncedo oluza kumbangela ukuba afikelele eDyunivesithi. Azange ibe ziindaba ezimnandi ezi kulo mfana wakwaMhlontlo. Wayecinga iqela lakhe lebhola alishiya ngasemva kuba kwakulungiselelwa imidlalo yobuntshatsheli. Wayengomnye wabadlali ekuthenjelwe kubo yaye naye wayengafuni ukubadanisa abahlobo kunye nabalandeli.

Nanjengomntwana owayenembeko, wathobela ilizwi labazali, wahamba waya eRhini. Wazixolisa ngokuzixelela ukuba kuhlwa kusisa kwaye umzingisi akanashwa. Wamkelwa ngobubele ke ngumakazi wakhe eRhini, owayengafekethisi konke konke, kodwa emthanda lo mfana kadadewabo kuba ke unkabi wayezolile yaye eneliso elibukhali. Ekufikeni eRhini akuzange kuphoziswe maseko, waya kubhaliswa kwisikolo samabanga aphakamileyo iNombulelo. Wathi ke akufumana ithuba wakhe wazinika ixesha lokuqwalasela amabala okudlala apha kwesi sikolo sitsha. Akazange agxeke nto. Kwiveki yesibini engenile esikolweni, kwaba ngathi amaphupha akhe aza kuzaliseka nangaphezulu kokuba ebecinga. “Amakhwenkwe anomdla wokudlala ibhola ekhatywayo kuyacelwa ukuba ashiyeke ukuphuma kwesikolo,” watsho umyalezo owadluliswa kutitshala ngomnye wabafundi. Wawufunda ke utitshala umyalezo, engaqondi ukuba loo myalezo wawungumculo omyoli ezindlebeni zikaThamsanqa. Akazange alibazise ke umfana wazixelela ukuba nali ithuba lakhe. Saphuma isikolo adibana amakhwenkwe notishala oza kuwaqeqesha. Kwaxoxwa nje kancinci, waze waqukumbela utitshala ngelithi, “Ngomso nize niphathe impahla zenu zokuzilolonga.”


Ziqengqelekile ke iinyanga kungekho gxeke ezifundweni nasemidlalweni kaThamsanqa. “Ngeeholide zenyanga yeSilimela kuza kubakho ukhuphiswano lokukhetha abafundi abaza kumela iphondo. Kufunwa abadlali abangaphantsi kweminyaka elishumi elinesithoba,” wabaxelela utishala. Wavuya akuva ezi ndaba uThamsanqa. “Yho! Ndiza kuqinisekisa ukuba ndiyakhethwa, kunini ndifuna ukudlalela iphondo lam,” wazithethela watsho unkabi, uncumo iloluya lukabhlankethi.

Lafika ixesha lokuvalwa kwezikolo. Kwathi kuba eyintanga yokuya esuthwini uThamsanqa wenza njalo. Kwathi xa kuphela iveki yesibini esesuthwini kwafika iindaba ezingazange zimphathe kakuhle. “Thamsanqa ndithi mandikuxelela ukuba ukhuphiswano luza kuba kule veki izayo. Inyanga itshintshiwe kuba kulungiselelwa iNdebe yeHlabathi,” watsho utishala wakhe, washiyeka lo mfana ematshekile, ilizwe lifi le kuye.

Ekubuyeni kwakhe esuthwini uThamsanqa waqhuba nezifundo zakhe kwakunye nokudlala ibhola ekhatywayo, yaye efuna ukuzilolonga nangaphezulu. Kwiveki yesibini zivuliwe izikolo kwaye kwafi ka umpoposho wokuba kuza kubakho ukhuphiswano lwezikolo zikazwelonke eKapa. Wavuya unkabi kuba eqonda ukuba akasoze aliphose elo ithuba, nangona lalingelothuba elilungileyo emva kweemviwo zokulungiselela ezokugqibela. Waye wazimisela ngakumbi ekudlaleni kuba wayebona ukuba kungenzeka ibe leli thuba kwakukudala elilindele eli.

Kunyanisiwe ke xa kuthiwa ukonakala kwenye kukulunga kwenye nanjengoko loo nto yabangela ukuba angaziniki ingqwalasela ngokupheleleyo iincwadi zakhe. Ekufi keni kwexesha leemviwo, kwaye kwabhalwa nanjengoko bekucwangcisiwe. Ekupheleni kweemviwo kwaye kwalungiselelwa ukuvalwa kwezikolo, kodwa ke oku kwakungazi kuhamba nje kodwa kuThamsanqa. Kwakufanele ezifumene iindaba ezimnandi zokuba igama lakhe lalikho kuluhlu lwabo babetyunjelwe ukuya kudlala eKapa. Kangangendlela awayechulumance ngayo, wayengasawuvali umlomo. Sele enombono wakhe unkabi, engumdlali ophambili kumaqela awaziwayo ebhola ekhatywayo.

Ngelixa uThamsanqa angasakwazi nokuwuvala umlomo, yimincili yokuya eKapa, abazali bona babecinga ngezifundo zakhe lo mfana, nabo benethemba neqikili lokuba akasoze abadanise nanjengoko wayesoloko enenkathalo. Umakazi kaThamsanqa wagqiba ekubeni aye kuzithatha iziphumo zomtshana wakhe, yaye enamabhongo okuba soze lo mfana abaphoxe. “Thamsanqa yintoni le?” ubuzile umakazi esisifu ngumsindo, emva kokuba ezifumene iziphumo. “Uzele ukudlala ibhola ekhatywayo okanye uzele ukufunda apha eRhini khona ibiyibhola oyikhathalele ngantoni le?” waqokela ke umakazi, emxine ngemibuzo umtshana wakhe engamniki nethuba lokuphendula. “Mamela apha ke, mna makazi wakho, ndithi akuyi apho. Wena into oza kuyenza kukuhlala apha ufunde iincwadi zakho ezi uzilibeleyo ngenxa yale bhola. Siyevana?” wambuza phofu engananze mpendulo umakazi. “Ewe makazi,” waphendula uThamsanqa ngelizwi eliphantsi, kucaca mhlophe ukuba ubindeke kakhulu sesi sigqibo sikamakazi.

Amaphupha akhe eminyaka atshabalala ityeli lesibini phambi kwamehlo akhe. Akazange akukholelwe ke uThamsanqa oku, imigudu emininzi kangaka ayenzileyo ukuzama ukuphucula isakhono sakhe! Wayengakholelwa ukuba kuyaphela ngolo hlobo. Kodwa ke wayeza kuthini, umakazi wayethethile, kananjalo wayesazi ukuba kufanele isikolo sihambe phambili.

KuThamsanqa yayingase ingapheli iveki, okanye akhe ahambe eRhini okwethutyana. Oku kokuba angababoni oogxa bakhe xa kukhwelwa ibhasi eya ‘empumelelweni’. Kwafi ka kona okungaliyo, kwayinkungu nelanga esikolweni, abadlali bedibene ukuya kukhwela ibhasi eya eKapa. Kwathi xa lisiya kunina, yenjenjeya ibhasi ukunduluka, isingisa kwelaseKapa. Nabani wayenokuliva ifuthe labadlali ababenemincili, nanjengoko babecula amagwijo, bengasaziva ukungxamela phambili. Waba ke uyancama uThamsanqa, kodwa wabe enesingqala, angasathethi namntu, intliziyo ilihlwili, enemibono yaloo ndlela inde ebeza kukhe ayihambe okokuqala, esiya kudlala umdlalo awuthandayo.

Kwasa kona, iimini zingalindanga uThamsanqa nentliziyo yakhe ebuhlungu nje. Ngentsasa yangoMvulo wavuka njengesiqhelo unkabi, wenza imisebenzi yakhe yasekhaya, ezama ukulibala ngentlungu yakhe. Ithe xa iqinayo imini yangoMvulo wathi “makhe ndimamele unomathotholo, ndiyayithanda la nkqubo kasisi Tshidi, ka-‘Ezithandwa ndim’”. Kwathi kusenjalo lafi ka ixesha leendaba. Wakhe wacinga ngokutshintsha isikhululo kuba engenamdla kakhulu ezindabeni. Kodwa kwathi kusenjalo kwaphuma inqaku elamenza wangathi ujike wasisimo setyiwa. “Ingozi yebhasi ebilayishe abantwana besikolo ebebesingise eKapa kumdlalo webhola ekhatywayo, ibhukuqe yatsha, yaye akukaziwa nokuba bakhona na abasindileyo”. Yathi ndi le nyewe apha ekuhlaleni, yaye abazali sele beziziyunguma becinga abantwana babo. UThamsanqa wasuka akakwazi nokuthetha, akafuna nokutya, wasuka wabila kubanda, wangathi uza kuyoba. Kwathi kuqinisekiswa ukuba ngenene le bhasi yileyo ibisiya eKapa, wabe uThamsanqa sele engasakwazi nokuthetha ethe ndwanya nje ngathi usisidenge. Wayesithi akucinga ngabahlobo bakhe angakwazi nokulala, kodwa athi akucinga ngokusinda kwakhe azive ebulela uYehova ngeenceba zakhe. Wavakala ewaphinda amazwi athi “Ukonakala kwenye kukulunga kwenye”.

Hanna  (Jolyn Philips)

Ek onthou die dag toe Hanna siek geword het. Sy’t die hele dag gehuil vandat Ma haar by die winkel loop haal het.

‘Hanna soek Tjokolok and tjips.’

‘Nee’ het Ma gesê, ‘dis opppela.’

En toe begin Hanna te huil soos ‘n uil.

‘Ek soek Gom! Gom koep Sakkewa! Gom koep sakkewa nou! Hoeeeee-hoeeeee!’

Arme Hanna soek vir Oom Jerome  of Gom soos sy hom noem.  Hy’s ook dood soos Antie Lena maar Hanna mag nie weet nie.

Ek en Ma is al mense wat Hanna se taal verstaan. Somtyds dan roep sy vir my.

‘Die, kom. Dan kom sit ek by haar op die vloer dan praat ons agter ons hande en  dan sê sy vir my,

‘Hulle lag in my in. Hulle lag in Hanna.’

Dan antwoord ek soos Ma my geleer het, ‘Hanna mooi soes Pop.’ Hanna sal lag en sê ‘Die dom.’ Partykeer dan huil Hanna soema vir soema en as sy eers beginte huil dan kan ‘n mens maar los. Ma sal sê ‘hoor net die uil, liewe heiland wie moet nou weer dood.’Sondae is die beste tyd saam met Hanna. sy staan vroeg op saam met Ma om huis skoon te maak en kos op te sit. Sy doen die skilwerk en Ma doen die kookwerk. Tussen  die gewoel en gewemel hoor mens vir Ma en Hanna Amazing Grace sing in Hanna se woorde. Alhoewel mens net Miela Miela Miela Miela hoor weet ek in haar hart weet sy dis ‘n koortjie vir die Tiengeling. As ons Tiengeling toe gaan op ‘n Sondagoggend dan sal mens hoor hoe Hanna die here prys.

Ma se probleem is net dat sy nie meer weet hoe om vir Hanna besig te hou nie. Die dag met An Lena se begrafnis het Hanna nog vir almal vertel hoedat An Lena haar pakkie gee het en hoe dat sy so gehuil het want daarvoor kry so mos lekkers. Vir An Lena was dit maklik toe hulle Ma dood is want Antie Lena het so te sê vir Hanna grootgemaak. Hanna het vir haar An Lena Mamma gesê want sy’t gedink haar suster is haar Ma.  Volgens Hanna is my naam Die en Ma se naam is baba.  Ons ander probleem is ons geld droog op en net die ander dag vertel Ma vir An Nettie sy kan nie meer al die luxuries bekostig nie.

‘ Nou hoekom bel jy nie vir Charmaine nie? Haal jou trots uit jou sak uit. Ek bedoel maar, die geld kom Hanna toe.’

‘Nee Nettie. Die Here sal voorsien.’

‘Ek wil nou nie uit my beurt praat nie Daleen, maar die Here het klaar voorsien. Bel die vrou.’

‘Nee Nettie, tyd het ek nie vir daai êrrie-flêrrie niggie va my nie. Ek sal wel iets uitfigure.’

Ma en An Charmaine het baklei by An Lena se begrafnis. Voor die graf, die blomme, die mense en selfs voor die Pastoor. In die begin was dit net ‘n getjie-tjie-tjie en toe sê Antie Charmaine kliphard,

‘Jy skuld my.’

‘skuld jou?’ Sê Ma met haar vuiste in haar heupe.

‘Ja.  Is my Ma wat jou gat skoon gemaak het. My Ma wat gesorg het die welsyn vat jou nie. Wys ‘n bietjie dankbaarheid. As dit nie vir my Ma was…’

‘Dan sal ek nog altyd hier gewees het’ chime Ma in. ‘Ek is hier’  wys ma na die grond, ‘op God se genade.Ons is nie meer kinders sodat jy my kan hiet en gebied nie.’

Ek het gedink Ma gaan vir An Charmaine klap maar sy het mos haar hart vir die Here gegee. Daar was ‘n tent soos daai soort wat die sirkus gebruik. Ma het vorentoe gegaan vir gebed en toe tas die heilige gees haar aan en sy val inmekaar in. En toe Ma daar wakker word toe is sy heeltemal anders. Nou gaan ons gereeld kerk toe en as sy huil, huil sy trane van blydskap, want haar sorge het sy vir die Here gegee of so vertel sy vir An Nettie.

‘Anyhow Hanna bly by jou. Dis die minste wat jy vir die familie kan doen.’

‘Vir die Familie? Vir die familie? Hoekom sê djy nie vir die mense hoe dat jy jou Ma se huis onder haar uit gedobbel het nie? Hanna sal ‘n huis gehad het as jy nie so geldgierig was nie. Elke aand moes ek luister hoe jou ma vir jou bid. Bid dat jy regkom. God slaap nie ou Nig. Die wiel draai.’

Ma het uitasem en huilerig gepraat en Antie Charmaine het daar gestaan soos ‘n spook, asvaal in die gesig. Ma het darem haar gesig lekker vir haar  afgewas. Sy kon nie ‘n woord sê nie en haar haar oë het soos twee groot gutties in haar kop gestaan. Almal het geskinder met hulle oë toe hulle kyk hoedat An Charmaine met haar opstairs skoene  kekliek-kekliek  kar toe loop. Ons het nie weer van haar gehoor nie en Ma weier om Hanna se geld by haar te gaan haal.

‘Raai wie, ‘n mens sal nooit sê Hanna is al diep in die vyftigs nie. Sy lyk soos ‘n ou mollige kind. En haar ou taaltjie wat sy praat is te kostelik.’

Ek hou glad niks daarvan as An Nettie praat saam met Hanna nie.  Sy praat met Hanna soos sy met daai kat van haar praat. Hanna is nie ‘n kat nie, want sy praat nooit met my so nie.

‘Ja,’ sê Ma, ‘sy kerm al weke vir ‘n pop.’

Nettie kyk vir ons terwyl ons deur ou Huisgenote blaai, alhoewel Hanna die onderkant van haar rok  se soom dophou.

‘En wat soek Hanna vir Krismis?’

‘Pop. Mamma koep. Mamma koep pop.’

‘Te dierbaar. Siestog, weet  sy nie van Oorle Antie Lena nie?’

Ma skud net haar kop en druk die entjie dood in die asbak. Sy’t gesê die Here sal haar nog verlos van die entjie maar nie nou nie.

En toe word Hanna siek, sommer so uit die bloute uit. Vreeslik weer gehuil. Aanhoudend gesê ‘Mamma in die kissie. Mamma weg.’

Ma het die hele tyd diep skywe getrek en gebewe tussen Hanna se gehoe en ge-haa. Ma het haar duiwelsdrek en entres-druppels in geja tot op Lewens-essens en  nie eens balsam vita wat An Nettie voorgestel het, het gewerk nie. En met my wil sy ook nie praat nie. In die einde toe begin my Ma haar omkoop met tjoklits en tjips maar as dit opraak dan begin sy maar weer hoee-haaa. Hanna was hartseer vir ‘n hele drie weke. Deesdae staan sy nie eens op nie, sy lê net daar. Die mense in ons straat het kaasbrood gebring en Stamp en Stoot sop maar Hanna wil dit nie hê nie. Ma het gesukkel om haar te maak eet. Oom Naald het gesê, hy weet ook nie wat fout is nie, want sy makeer niks, so gesond soos ‘n os. Hanna word nou dunner en dunner. Sy lyk nie meer soos my tjomma nie. Sy is nou ‘n ou vrou met lyne in haar gesig en haar wange het weggesak. Sy maak my bang snags want dit lyk asof haar oë wil uitval omdat sy met oë gebore is wat nie al die pad kan toe nie.

‘Het die Oom Naald vir Hanna so seer gemaak?’ vra ek vir Ma want ek weet mos hoe bang sy vir Oom Naald is.

‘Nee, kuinkie, sy sal mos al lankal geraas het. Hanna gaan orite wees. Die dokter weet wat hy doen.’

Die volgende oggend toe is die huis stil. Ek loop kombuis toe om te gaan kyk of Ma nie dalk daar is nie. Toe ek daar kom, is dit An Nettie wat besig is om die pot pap te roer met die hout lepel.

‘Wa my Ma?’

‘More hond. Groet ons nie?’

‘More An Nettie’

Ek het buite op die stoep gaan sit  sodat  my pap gouer koud kan raak. Ek wil nie by An Nettie wees nie. Sy is ‘n snaakse Antie. Sy kyk my altyd so skeef  aan asof sy deur my kan sien. Toe sien ek vir Tokolossie tol kap voor ons hek en hardloop met my  nagrok en al na haar toe.

‘Jy! Ek wag die heel tyd vi jou my broe,’ sê Tokolossie opgewonde. ‘Hie was ‘n taxi met rooi ligte en daar was ‘n masjien wat gedreun het daar binne en toe vlie hulle zoop af in die straat in met jou Ma en Hanna. Wat het na gebeur?’

Ek lug net my skouers, ‘Ko’ os speel gutties.’ Ek wou die hartseer uit my kop skiet.

Ma het eers die aand van Hermanus af gekom met ‘n entjie in haar mond. Sy’t van Hanna niks gesê nie.  Sy en An Nettie het die volgende dag die huis van hoek tot kant geskrop en gevee en tussen-in skywe getrek. Toe dit weer aand word toe hou hulle kerk by ons huis en dis toe ek uitvind Hanna is weg. Ma ka ma gesê dit Hanna is weg, of miskien was dit obvious. Ek weet nie, ma sy ka ma vi my geserrit. Ek het ok verstaan Ma hou nie van praat oor die dood nie. Ma treur nou nog oor my broertjie wat dood is en nou het sy al weer ‘n kind verloor. Ek het eenkeer Ma hoor praat saam met An Lena net voor sy ok weg is. Hulle het saggies gepraat maar ek het agter die deur afgeluister. Ek verstaan nie al dag hoe die hele storie werk nie, ma ek moet my bek hou daar oor want Ma gee pak vir tande tel.

By die begrafnis was daar ‘n klompie mense, meer as by An Lena sin. Die kerk was ook nie lank nie want Ma het sommer vir die begrafnis antie gesê die huis en gat is al waarvoor sy geld het. Agterna het ons tee en koek by die huis gehad, almal het sommer bygelas. Ma het op en af gehardloop en bedien en geglimlag en  gegroet en drukkies aanvaar soos die mense gekom en gegaan het. Ma was nog besig om vir An Nettie iets te beduie toe loop An Charmaine in. Sy het weer daai opstairs skoena gedra maar die keer het sy ook ‘n groot paar brille op wat haar soos ‘n brommer laat lyk het. Die hele huis het sommer stil geword, almal het opgehou roer aan hulle tee en net vir An Charmaine dop gehou so asof dit haar sal weg jaag. Maar sy loop vorentoe reguit na Ma toe kekliek-kekliek-kekliek.

‘Ek is jammer Daleen. Ek…’

Ma dophou-loer so die mense en sê, ‘kom ons praat buite.’

Ek hardloop saam en Ma jaag my ook nie weg toe hulle in haar goue kar klim nie.

‘Toe, ry,’ sê Ma, ‘of wil jy hê die agies moet kyk,  ry sommer graf toe.’

Ons ry Gouwsblomstraat toe. Die hele tyd hou Ma vir Antie Charmaine fyn dop. Ek dink Antie Charmaine het nie agtergekom nie. Toe hou ons stil voor  die begrafplaas. Ons loop en ons loop en hou stil voor Hanna se graf wat vir my soos ‘n bed lyk vol mooi blomme en kranse. Hulle het so na die graf gekyk en toe krap Antie Charmaine in haar sak en haal ‘n koevert uit en gee dit vir Ma.

‘Dis vir jou. Maak oop.’

Ma maak dit oop en lees die papier. Dis ‘n tjek, ek weet dit is.

‘Dis te veel geld. Ek kan nie.’

‘Vat dit. Dit was Hanna sin. Ek is seker jy sal dit nou nodig kry.’

‘Nee. Ek kan dit nie vat nie. En moet nie kom  aanneem wat ek benodig nie. Ons het genoeg om oor die weg te kom.’

‘Ag jy weet tog ek bedoel dit nie so nie, Daleen.’

‘Jou oorle Ma het altyd gesê erfgeld is swerfgeld. Ek het genoeg kruise om te dra.’

‘Nou wat moet ek met die geld maak?’

Ma was vir ‘n hele ruk stil  en sy kyk na die ander grafte.

‘Ek weet nie.  Miskien, Charmaine, kan jy vir Hanna en vir jou Ma daar op Stêword ‘n steen laat       opsit.’

‘Ja. Dan praat ons maar later weer?’

Ma was klaar besig om aan die blomme te peuter maar toe kyk sy vir Antie Charmaine en gee haar ‘n drukkie. Ma wou aan haar gesig vat en toe ruk sy terug en daar val die brille op die grond. An Charmaine het ‘n poep-oog  gehad, pimpelinpers. Sy’t vinnig die brille opgetel en is net so vining daar weg. Ma het nog agter na geskree.

‘Wag Charmaine! Die tjek!’

En toe kyk ons die kar agterna tot dit verdwyn. Ma vou  toe die  tjek en sit dit in haar bra en begin weer aan die graf vroetel.

‘Liewe aardetjie,’ sê sy vir die graf. ‘Dis nou vir jou ‘n fokop-in-a-life.’

Ek het maar sit en toktokkies soek in die sand om en om en om en Ma het aanhou mompel met Hanna. Toe sê sy vir my:

‘Nie ‘n woord hieroor nie, gehoor meisiekind.’

Te bang om te praat skud ek net my kop vining.

Ons biesageit is ons biesageit. Ko’s gat huistoe.’

 

La Madonna to America!  (Phyllis Orner)

La Madonna slowly moves away from the dock in Napoli. Tears stream down the faces of people calling their final goodbyes. Sadness enters my bones. The space between us grows and the waving handkerchiefs become a white blur. Alfonso clutches the railing. When he starts to slump, I pull him back from bending bodies. Babies squirm in mothers’ arms, miserable in wet soiled pannolini. Bigger children clutch the backs of their skirts. Bury their faces in the folds. The mothers despair in the packed space. They strike out at them to stop their fussing. There’s more room on the other side but I won’t go there. That’s where the sea stretches away from the harbour. I saw the sea for the first time in Crotone. Its watery mouth roared and I wanted to flee. I can wait to see it again. I will be its captive for many days.

            The harbour is far behind us. The small boats that pushed us on our way hoot and turn back. People are restless. We bump together in the cramped deck space they give us. But nobody wants to go down to the domitorios where families are separated. The women and children sleep together, the men with other men. They are overcrowded with only our beds to sit on. Sickening smells leak from rotting food in bags, tired dirty bodies, vomit and the bagno buckets in the passages. The beds are so close together that I dread the night to come. We slept in a bundle at home but I know my family’s smells and ways. These are strangers and I’m afraid of what they might do in the night.

            Leaning against the ship’s railing letting my eyelids fall, I see my family sleeping snuggled up to the goats while the snow swirls and dances outside in the winter winds.

            Mia madre and mio padre sleep in a tiny room on a rough-wood bed with all their clothes on. My sisters and brothers are scattered around me. I can’t tell one from the other under the piled-up clothes, their faces buried in the goats’ bellies. The moon hides behind  the clouds and the wolves howl. Rosa creeps up to me laying her big horny head on my belly. But I don’t mind. She is my best friend, my warmth. I love her body smell, the breathy odour from her opened mouth, her long soft silky ears.

            Opening my eyes, I see Alfonso who looks lost. We met on the train to Napoli and have stayed close since then. Now we squeeze ourselves between a smokestack and curled-up rope. We sit not moving or talking. I wonder what’s happened to Paolo from my village who left to work on Napoli’s docks, also going to America.

            The weak sun is sinking fast and a cold wind is rising. La Madonna rocks slowly up and down. It doesn’t bother me but many hold their heads or lean over the railing, the wind scattering their vomit. My chest is tight but it’s too late now. The ship has us trapped. I am 17 but feel old. La Madonna is taking us to a better place so that we can live and our families in Italy won’t starve. I can’t fight it. But my body isn’t listening.

            At dusk, a few lights twinkle from the land we’re leaving behind. A bell rings and a voice comes from a horn on the deck. Everybody must go down to their dormitorios and wait for the food. We drag ourselves to the stairs. Our dormitorio is as we left it. Men are rolled-up lumps on beds. Others sit and talk. Some stand in the passage looking out the round windows hoping for a last glance of home. Paolo is on his bed holding a picture in his hand. He shakes his head and passes it to us. A woman holds a child on her hip. Another holds her hand, hiding his face behind her skirt. She stares unsmiling at the camera, her eyebrows thick, almost touching. The baby on her hip sleeps, its round face with bursting cheeks snuggled into her side. My wife and children, says Paolo. They had to leave Napoli after my troubles with the dock bosses. They are in her village waiting for me to send for them. Her name is Isabella. The baby is Fortunata, not yet one year. The boy is Stefano, three years old. Maybe I will never see them again. His face is covered in grief. But I don’t know what to say to comfort him. A loud bell breaks the silence. The box on the wall tells us to take our bowls to the mess for food.

            Men try to look better. They take washbasins from under beds, fill them with cold water, splash their faces, wet their hair and smooth it down. Combs come out and hair is parted to one side. Some men don’t move from their beds. They are sick or too mournful to move or want to eat. Along the passage the round windows look out to a jagged darkness as La Madonna moves up and down and from side-to-side. Alfonso stops, turning around to get back to the room. I go with him stumbling into men surging forward. Alfonso flops down on my bed, not moving. He closes his eyes and moans. Paolo takes our bowls to get the food. I lie down on Alfonso’s bed and start to drift off. Paolo shakes my shoulder, hands me a bowl of soup and a hunk of bread. The bread is dry and the soup too salty. Bits of spaghetti like fat worms float on top adding nothing to the taste.

            I think about the food hidden away in my suitcase. How for days mia madre and village women bent over rough boards rolling out dough made from wheat flour, water, a pinch of salt. How with tender care they shaped it into squares, rectangles, bows, and squiggles. They baked cakes filled with almonds, raisins, walnuts, and dried figs, later smothering them in soft sugar. Jars of black olives sloshed and twinkled on the rickety outdoor table. But I can’t touch any of it. The pasta, cake, and olives are for my American brothers and sisters to eat on holy days, births, christenings, weddings, and wakes.

            After supper Alfonso is softy snoring. Paolo says if we go help the stewards clean-up they will let us sit and talk in their mess. On the way we use the passage bagno. Opening the door I gag and back out. Seeing my discomfort Paolo smiles. Better get used to it, he says. There are many more days of hardship ahead. We join a group of men playing briscola in the mess, the cards worn but lovingly looked after. A few women sit knitting, sleeping children sprawled across their laps. After many games, we return to the dormitorio. The only light in the room comes from the passage. Men are sprawled across beds barely big enough for a boy. Their snores burst out of their mouths like tumbling rocks. The fusty smells and closeness of sad and weary bodies give no warmth. This is the first day on La Madonna. How are we to bear the rest?

            I put my head down on the hard mattress and pull the blanket up to my chin. The breath of the man next to me is sour from vomit and despair. Turning away I stroke the keepsake of Rosa’s hair in my pocket. Silently smiling I remember how every day I took her and the other goats up the hills. When hungry I ate goat cheese on slabs of dark bread, sprinkled with dill or mouth-burning chilli. Walking home, I was drawn to fallen leaves, pebbles and twigs, dried out goats’ poppa in my path. I put my head back and looked for birds circling the cloudless sky, stood still to feel the wind rustling my hair. Rosa copied me letting the wind ruffle her hair into uneven peaks. Our low-roofed house was ahead, smoke pouring out the chimney. Soon we would sit down to eat spaghetti.

            That life is hard. But this tearing away is worse. Our soft days of sunshine and secrets are traded for a big crate that rocks but doesn’t calm. That travels across water afraid of a wind that holds no mercy.

            The bell and box-voice wake us next morning when it’s still dark. La Madonna is moving up and down and side-to-side again. Objects on the floor slide back and forth. Men with ghost-like faces tinged with green open their eyes. One look at the tilting air makes them close them again. Groans erupt and subside, only to erupt again. The man on my side wrestles himself free from his tangled-up blanket and clothes. I too am wrapped up like an ear of corn and peel myself free. But I’m still feeling strong and less tired after a deep sleep.

            Alfonso’s legs are hanging over the bed looking wobbly but at least he’s sitting up. Can you get down, I ask. No, but I’m thirsty. Is there something to drink? There is water to drink, wait here I will get you a cup. He drinks it slowly and flops down again, pulling the blanket up to cover his head. Grazie paisan, you get something to eat. I will sleep some more, he whispers through the thin blanket. The food is in big vats ready to be doled out. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe eggs hatched in hot water. Alfonso is sleeping when we get back with his food. We leave it as secure as possible on Paolo’s bed. I hope he sees it before it rolls and falls on someone’s head, Paolo sighs.

            The walk up to the deck goes slowly. Getting to the top, I see what’s wrong. We are sunk in greyness. The sea has swallowed the sky. We are landless on all sides. I should have stayed in bed, never seen this fearful place. I want to hide myself before the wind takes me away to float forever across nothing. Paolo’s eyes are huge in his face. He turns from the gloom and sits down on the deck. We are doomed, he says. What have we done that brings us this pain? People swirl around us. They look to one another. Touch, cling. Encircle their children. Rosary beads slide through bent fingers. Where are we, they ask. Why didn’t they tell us we pass through purgatario before we reach the Golden Land?

            A sharp wind slashes our faces. Collars are pushed up, kerchiefs pulled tighter under chins and double-knotted. Scarves pulled up to dribbling noses. La Madonna’s heaving has quietened but the grey mist has deepened. Time crawls by. There is no more room but people still push into a thicket of bodies. Anything is better than gasping for breath down below.

            Alfonso appears out of the mist looking like a ghost. His earlier spark on the train turned to stone. He ate a bit of dry bread but couldn’t get anything else down. He is sickened by the dormitorio’s thick air-stink and the men’s groans, buckets stuck to their faces. He sinks down next to Paolo. The misery in their eyes chills me more than the cold wind and mist. I try hard to push aside the gloom with my dream of home.

            We are all together. Mia madre sit s next to the fire mending a shirt. Her soft brown eyes strain in the dim light to stitch in a straight line. Donatella her favourite goat is by her side. Felicia sits in the corner stroking the cat. Luisa brushes her long straight hair, Carmina at her feet not missing a stroke. Mio padre and my brothers rush in red in the face from the cold wind whipping outside. Domenico full of laughter greets each goat with a kiss. My Rosa rushes to my side not wanting to taste Domenico’s cold lips!

            The sky starts to lift off the sea. Blue light peeks through layers of grey. A strange smell comes from the sea which has become flat as a rhubarb cake. If I don’t look too far out to the nothingness it’s almost peaceful. Standing with my back to the railing looking up to the deck above I see men, women, and children slowly walking by. They don’t look down. They wear soft warm coats and hats; shoes shine, the buckles twinkly stars. Paolo says they don’t live like us on this ship. They sleep on soft beds with thick blankets, only four to a room. They eat the best spaghetti, drink bello vino. They rest on long chairs on decks we can’t go to. The cold wind never reaches their bones. Their children are fat. They never cry with hunger or feel icy-fingers ripple along their spines.

            A girl about my age pushes in and out of the people packed like acciughe on the deck. Her face is long with a pointy nose below black-olive eyes. Her kerchief covers her hair except for a black fringe on her forehead. A tight-fitting dark blue jacket covers her from her neck to her waist. Layered black and white skirts stop just above the tops of pull-on boots. She’s after a young boy who darts out and trips over Alfonso’s outstretched legs landing on my stomach. She grabs his arm pulling him up trying not to laugh at our open-mouthed faces. Mi scusi signori, she says. He always makes trouble. He’s tired of being cooped up like a chicken. He runs and I have to catch him. The boy is trying to get away but she holds him tight. What is your name, Paolo asks the boy. Julio and this is Maria. She loves to chase me. That’s why I run away. Oh you and your stories, she says giving him a soft pinch on the cheek. You are just a bad boy who makes me tired. But she can’t hide her smile. Julio is about 10. His hair is long and straight, black as night. His eyes are brown ringed by long eyelashes. Where are your mother and father, I ask.

            It’s only my mother, Maria says. My father is in New York waiting for us. My mother is very tired since my father left. She lies in her bed now and won’t eat. We lived with i genitori di mio padre. They have little food and had to share with us. All my uncles have left but Antonio. He is always angry. He hates us for making his parents starve. He used to sneak up on me to do evil things. I told no-one but Julio saw one day and stuck his leg with a pitchfork. He bellowed like a sick cow and his mother came running. Julio ran away until it got dark. I found him hiding behind the graveyard’s low wall. The next day they wrote a letter to my father to come get us or we would be thrown to the wolves. They hated us even more and we crept around not making a peep. My mother cried every night. My father sent money to my uncle in Siracusa and he bought tickets for La Madonna.

            The bell rings and we head for the stairs. The ship rocks just a little and Alfonso comes with us. More men are getting up to get food from the vats. We eat our soup and bread. Paolo shares some of his sausage and I take pistachios from a tin in my bag. When we go back to the deck the sky has lifted and the sun is shining. White clouds bump in their rush to follow us as we skim across the blue-grey water. We squeeze past people sitting, eating food from baskets, or heads held back letting the sun warm their faces. I look for Maria and Julio but don’t see them. She is different from my cousin Giulietta. Not as round or as pretty. But her smile is big and her spirit strong. She talks to us with her head held high. Her voice is like a bird’s song.

            Later that night after a meal of mushy spaghetti with no meat, I ask Paolo why Maria’s family treated them badly when their father is far away. I miei genitori have little but they would never hurt us or throw us out. People are different, he says. Their anger has turned into fear. They shouldn’t hurt their families but they do it out of fear and impotenza. They know nothing will change because Italy has forgotten them. Some lash out against the wrong ones. It is bad. They should never do it. But they do because they are afraid.

            We’ve been on La Madonna for two days but it feels like forever. My home is far, far away. There is no path that a donkey cart can follow from here to the hills that raised me. In this watery-home they say there’s a Land of Plenty we’re sailing to. But will it have hills with goats smiling at the sunshine warming their backs? My eyes close. A big mountain rises up; tree-tops bend in the wind. Something small, brown and white sits on top. Its head nods its lips part. My eyes open. Just shadow here, and the darkness of men’s troubled dreams. My eyes close again.

            The hills are full of morning light. Dew-drenched stella apina glisten. A soft breeze tickles the back of my neck. Rosa leads the way to the top of the hill. Her scruffy head rubs against my bare knee. Come, she says. I know the way. We follow her on a path leading to a cave black as night inside. Out steps Tina the wolf, the sun glinting off her teeth and eyes. Come stai, paisano, she says. Follow me. I know a sunny place to sit. She leads us to a hilltop covered in soft mosses. We sit in a circle, little smiles on our faces, enjoying the sunshine on our backs. A song clear as a church bell rises out of the misty slopes. They walk towards us. Mouths wide open in song. Arms strain under the weight of baskets bursting with food. We eat, laugh, sing more songs, and lie down to sleep, the sun our warm blanket.



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