TELEGRAPH TO THE SKY – a poem from South Africa

Sandile Dikeni

Stay with me
when the sun rises
from a western sky
with silver spears lashing
at earth and our youth
when the eastern horizon
hangs smoke
as celebration to a fading dream
will you take my blistered hand
to a kiss?
That journey
between reflex action
and conviction
where moments flash
from substance to emotion
and where we count seconds as instinct
we live in times where we are against time
and impulse rules over us
as undirected, unelected factor
we live cliché as fact
and fact is cliché
to the one beat of change.

Will you stay with me
when I have no more hallelujahs
to your name
and instead offer dahlias
to your anonymity
when my knees refuse to bend at your beauty
but my eye of growth
raises an altar to your soul
that power that dreams awake
the Brazilian forest
or in its strength of wish
re‑awakens our dead
at Kassinga, Biafra
or wherever your heart lives
among the innocent dead.
Will you really
stay with me
when I stand up
and sing to the world
its magnitude
its greatness
for an ability to turn itself
upside down
while the inhabitants still believe
in its constance

that their heads are facing downwards.

they don’t hang you by the neck
till you die.
They dangle you by the feet
till the blood comes to the brain.
It’s a high feeling that makes you reach for sky
but touch earth as limit
as ecstasy .
of reaching some end
because some journeys are so long
and much longer
when you live in a dream forest
called poetry.

They say
it is not by bread alone that we live.
I know.
It is by poetry alone that we survived –
with poetry dancing on our tongues
we wiped the blood from our mouths
we charmed our torturers
we dangled freedom bells from our shackles
we made music out of sirens
we made homes out of prisons
we redesigned parliaments out of corrugated iron
we petrol bombed our angry past
we blasted our martyrs out of our brains
and we made shrines out of their graves
we weaved forgiveness onto our T‑shirts
and with last remaining droplets of blood
we tried to paint peace on angry dark skies
we silenced our solitude
we mated our humility with our anger
with hammers and chissels
we punched hope deep into our hearts
we swam, we danced and we played water games in our tears
and now,
now we wave flags so bright
sometimes brighter than our future
but stay with me.

Stay with me
when the jungle has no tree
when the wind has no breath
when the rain has no sea
the desert has no sand
the stars have no eyes to see
God has no mercy
and the devil is making barbecue out of the land.
Now, will you stay with me?

Stay, so that we sing
songs from experience
we sing ideas from consciousness
and let’s cultivate destiny
from the barrenness of this,
this history
Stay with me.

Shall you?


Sandile is a long lost friend; we met in Bangalore in 2000 at an alternative media conference; we were in touch for next two years. I printed this poem in Dhaka-based daily The Daily Star. After that, mails to him kept bouncing. I lost contact with Sandile. Sandile: if you are reading this, send me your contact, at least the email ID. Mine is – Ekram Kabir

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