Tuesday Poem – White Lies, by Stanley Motjuwadi

Humming Maggie.
Hit by a virus,
the Caucasian Craze,
sees horror in the mirror.
Frantic and dutifully
she corrodes a sooty face,
braves a hot iron comb
on a shrubby scalp.
I look on

I know pure white,
a white heart,
white, peace, ultimate virtue.
Angels are white
angels are good.
Me I’m black
black as sin stuffed in a snuff tin
Lord, I’ve been brainwhitewashed.

But for Heaven’s sake God,
Just let me be.
Under cover of my darkness
let me crusade.
On a canvas starching from here
to Dallas, Memphis, Belsen, Golgotha,
I’ll daub a white devil.
Let me teach black truth.
That dark clouds aren’t a sign of doom,
but hope. Rain. Life.
Let me unleash a volty bolt of black,
so all around me may know black right.

This poem was given to me by a colleague as a teaching resource.  Stanley Motjuwadi is better known in South Africa as an editor and journalist who lived through the apartheid era and died soon after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990.

I love the play with symbolism here, my favourite being “That dark clouds aren’t a sign of doom,/but hope. Rain. Life.”

Nelson Mandela’s current ill health has reminded me again of the recentness of apartheid and how people can incite great change. This is also apparent in the existence of The Apartheid Museum which opened in 2001.

More Tuesday Poems here.

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