Mud school

Mud school

Image credit: SABC 3

Mud school

(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

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