Image credit: SABC 3
(For the children of the Eastern Cape, twenty years after Freedom)
Minister Motshekga, your name is mud. Let’s see
what we can do with you. We can fire you and make
of you a brick, and add you to our school, maybe
as the corner stone. In rain you’ll turn into a turd.
We’ll skip over you and laugh. We can smear
you thickly on our walls and watch you crumble
in the summer wind, we’ll use your flakes to learn
subtraction until there is nothing left to reckon with.
We can bake a cake with you and pretend we ‘re eating
lunch, or mould you to a wafer to serve us as a thin,
melting sacrament. We can press you in a frame
to form a wet slate and write this poem on you
with a twig and send the president a truck of sun-
baked tiles to read until he weeps. But maybe he
will only grin and say, why complain? Look where I
have gotten to with only standard six, I hold an honorary
doctorate from Beijing! Mrs Mud, we could erect for you
a headstone in every school and every morning march
around it chanting, till it falls down like the walls of Jericho.
But will it help if the element is air, or song, or pristine hope?
Mud is a multi-purpose substance, Minister, we can fling
it in your face, if you would show it to us, but you rarely come.
A grateful word for rhyming, too, this mud that is your name,
for chewing on, like a dumb beast on its cud, until one day –
having baked, skipped, eaten, written, reckoned,
ruminated, marched, prayed and chanted in its medium,
inhabited its frailty and studied well its force –we mix our blood
in it, and turn it into rock, and fan it into flame and furl
it into smoke and shout and tread under our feet the very buds
of spring, the things you should have nurtured,
the flowers of fresh learning, that we should have been.
– Marlene van Niekerk