Maverick Citizen


Unlocked: Poems for critical times (Part Three)

Cdd20 for Pixabay

In this feature by Maverick Citizen, twice a week, poet Ingrid de Kok selects a South African poem that sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely, addresses the question of how to imagine ourselves, how to be, in the current situation.

Mangaliso Buzani, who teaches in the Creative Writing programme at Rhodes University, won the 2015 SALA award for his isiXhosa poetry collection Ndisabhala Imibongo.

From his new English collection we reprint a haunting poem about autumn and extracts from two of his prose-poems which also voice the approach of winter and the mysterious and inevitable connections between human experience and the patterns of nature. 


Death of the Leaves


The sun

wearing a yellow robe

and silver shoes

touched the trees with fire

One by one leaves left their homes

falling without a word

light in weight but heavy with pain

They lost their green

their bones

their clothes

among the stones


Prose poem extract from a naked bone

I’m scared: if the sun falls into a river, we will run out of water, the grass will become thorns, the trees will burn human beings with fire, cows will disappear. And so will we, if we can’t kiss one another.

Prose poem extracts from The garden

Some stones turn to dust, trees grow tall, leaves fall on the ground and become human beings. Approaching winter, they surround themselves with walls, through the windows they wave a hand to me … In a winter like this one my hands refuse to come out of my pockets and wave back to my neighbours.


We had been talking life, fruit and vegetables. Now it was time to keep quiet, shuuuu … Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to throw down your bones. Someone has to fill the hole of this grave. In fear of stones and fire, we looked at each other wondering who was next.


From a naked bone, Mangaliso Buzani, Deep South, 2019. DM/MC/ML


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