Poetry by Gene Alexander

 

Here are three poems by Teach with Africa Faculty-in-Residence and Poet, Gene Alexander.

The first is written in response to an article by Ian McDonald about the soccer culture in South Africa:  “And that’s exactly it. Soccer, life, here is vibrant, loud, pulsating, powerful. We Africans don’t do sterile or boring. It’s just not in our DNA.” Ian McDonald

Hey there, what’s that sound?
side by side
life
death
excitement
violence
masquerading as each other
taking turns

vuvuzela
call
response
world as stadium
life as game
side by side
masquerading as each other

rhythm
music
dance
drums

across the road
from the whitewashed mansions
townships
full of life
and death
side by side
unrecognizable to each other

“vibrant
loud
pulsating
powerful”
the sound of gunshots?
the sound of drums?
excitement
violence
life
death

side by side
rich
poor
black
white
hands without hearts
hearts without hands
wrestling each other
for a piece
of the world
for a time
that may never
come

is that singing
that i hear
or
is that africa screaming?

The second was written while he was in South Africa in August, teaching writing at the LEAP School in Cape Town:

The Color Morgue

One.
From our separate coffins
we whisper about the surface of our days.
We are buried alive in our own histories
and time has piled
the stones of our crimes against each other
on top of the lid
of our hopes.

Even in the morgue of our inequalities
we cannot autopsy
what we have done to each other,
even with an open heart
we cannot view the damage clearly.

Where we come across the corpse of our legacy,
where it lays stinking in a pool of our blood,
we turn and turn
to turn  away
but the cloistrum holds us
like darkness holds the blind.

Two.
Where can I speak with you?
In dusty townships streaming with life
I find myself divided. In the confines of my car,
I find myself too crowded.  On the streets of white neighborhoods,
I find myself guilty. In the restaurants, I am aware of the disparities.

There is only your house and my house.
They are our separate coffins
through whose walls our muffled voices cannot speak.
Nor can we hear what each other is saying.

Three.
When I return to my world,
a place without history,
and the sheer curtain of sameness descends
covering over the raw endings of nerves
and the color of skin, I will go back to sleep
in the bed of my choosing, and wake in a world
where color is hidden, and talk to my friends
through the walls of my coffin
and remember at times
the echo of pain.

And the third was written at the Farewell Celebration on August 26th, at the LEAP School in Cape Town.

Praise Poem for LEAP Students
How do I return home?
Not without
this heart
so opened by your laughter.
Not without
this tenderness
born of your honesty.
Not without
this playfulness
flowing from your creativity.
Not without
this joy
singing with your energy.
How do I return home?
I’ll fly,
carrying
in my heart
each of you
like a poem.
I’ll remember,
listening
to your voices
singing in my ears.
I’ll sleep,
speaking
to all of you
in my dearest dreams.
And when I am home
I’ll stand among the clicking crickets
and yearn for Xhosa.
I’ll play your music
and miss your sweet faces.
I’ll sit quietly,
someplace holy,
and open my arms,
celebrating
the impossible wingspan
you have given my heart,
because now
there is now another home
to which I can someday
return.

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