Home Page African-Writing Online
HomeAbout UsNewsinterviewsProfiles of South African Women WritersFictionPoetryTributesArtReviews

  Alex Smith
  Amanze Akpuda
  Amatoritsero Ede
  Amitabh Mitra
  Ando Yeva
  Andrew Martin
  Aryan Kaganof

  Ben Williams
  Bongani Madondo
  Chielozona Eze
  Chris Mann
  Chukwu Eke
  Chuma Nwokolo
  Colleen Higgs
  Colleen C. Cousins
  Don Mattera
  Elizabeth Pienaar
  Elleke Boehmer
  Emilia Ilieva
  Fred Khumalo
  Janice Golding
  Lauri Kubuitsile
  Lebogang Mashile
  Manu Herbstein
  Mark Espin
  Molara Wood
  Napo Masheane
  Nduka Otiono
  Nnorom Azuonye
  Ola Awonubi
  Petina Gappah
  Sam Duerden
  Sky Omoniyi
  Toni Kan
  Uzor M. Uzoatu
  Valerie Tagwira
  Vamba Sherif
  Wumi Raji
  Zukiswa Wanner

   Ntone Edjabe
   Rudolf Okonkwo
   Tolu Ogunlesi
   Yomi Ola
   Molara Wood

August Debut

Issue 2; October/November


Sky Omoniyi

Sky Omoniyi

Tope (Sky) Omoniyi is Chair of Sociolinguistics in the School of Arts, Roehampton University, in London. He is the author of Farting Presidents & Other Poems (Kraft Books, 2001). His poems have also appeared in journals in Nigeria (ANA Review), Singapore (AWARE), Malaysia (Tenggara & The Gombak Review), USA (Quill Books and Anthropology & Humanism), UK (The Unruly Sun), seven Forward Press anthologies, and in Sweden (Nordic African Institute Newsletter). In 1985, he won a runner-up prize in the National Anti-Apartheid Poetry Competition in Nigeria and in 2001 he received a honourable mention in the Anthropology & Humanism Annual Poetry Competition.

The following poems are from a yet-to-be published collection, Word-o-graphs, a series of pictures in verse form of the poet’s response to some of the places he has been.

 Four Poems


Cape Town Memory

They’re buying up ancestral
Parches to raise holiday villas
For their annual pilgrimage
Migrant swans from stiff winters up north
Dollar feathers and Euro beaks
Paraphernalia of birds of prey

Soon there’ll be no more history
Ours trashed by tractors
Driven by corporate contractors
And when they’re done
Post-modern steel and glass
Structures will try to kiss our Sun-god
In their lust they court El Nino
And start an alien ritual

I pondered about their scriptures
About the old giving way to the new
But the old woodlands are us
Our truth and history in those roots
Return path of our forebears
Cape Town’s children must will away
Pilgrim birds of prey in designer garments
Seasonal in coming like the woe of abiku.




Songs [For Lucky Dube]

Time was when we sang songs
Of a happy nation and people
Flutists, cellists, pianists and baritone-voiced
Men backed the high notes of village belles
Women with angelic slants to the chords
They pulled rendered words that soothed

Time was when the lyrics of songs
Were the repository of community history
Folk tales, myths and fantasies
The clues to who we were
Those who wrote songs went
In and out of trances communing
With gods and god-like sorts on higher plane
They told you the average age in Vietnam
Was nineteen and made you think

Gongs and tambourines, sekere and gwoge
Spices on the voices of those who sang
Reaching a crescendo before returning to base
For a breath, relieved like mothers after a birth
And those who listened were moved to dance
Doubly blessed entertaining the senses and learning life’s
Lessons from servings of songs and desserts
Of choruses they recall long after the sing-song

But today the gongs of old lie silent
Silenced by an occupation force
Masked as software in hard computers
The flutes of old have ceased
To intone the notes that brought sincere
Tears to many an eye in celebration
Of passages in and out

Today there’s no cause for songs
Only dirges for the repose of society
Today we couldn’t sing even if we wanted
With the lyrics hijacked by Freedom’s kids
Brought up in a time of turmoil on rations of psychosis
They sing of death and raise a halleluyah for sin
They sing of endless sex, they sing of murder
And hike the demography of absentee fathers
They sing of patricide, matricide, all other homicides
They sing rape and conjure images of restless beasts
And helpless folks in garments of victimage
They sing of hatred and hug the top ten chart
For weeks on end, their tirades pleasure
The warped senses of society in throes of death

Today there are no more songs, only dirges
For unlucky sages jacked by hoodlums
No more singers, only madhats raising strange
Choruses waiting impatiently for Armageddon
Numbskull junkies in feats link hands
With pop stars and mount the rostrum
Gun-wielding spirits in jackets of steel
Fierce-looking bodyguards in tow
Parade as models for cursed innocents
They tell of woe and angels take flight

Rap rocking ragga reggae sends all agaga
Because those who buried Marley slipped
The philosophy of music into his grave
Between Garage and House a revolving door
Leads to nowhere dispensed of sense
They beg to let them entertain you
Then excoriate you dancing on the slippery
Surfaces of industrial-strength capsules they pop
Eyes rolled back half-shut
There are no songs anymore, only strange narratives
Of society on its head thinking from its feet

I’ve seen them plenty and heard them babble roar
Claiming erudition skills unknown to their fathers
Even those who ‘got you babe’ yesterday
Are skimping it in stilletos and nothing else
Grandchildren in awe scream the house down
Do you believe in life after love, they ask
And that’s all the dose of dialetics you get.

Is there an Adrian in the house?
Give it up for Susan yo!
Let’s hear it for Harold! Say Yo!, Say Yeah!
The buggers holler between strains of acid
Plucking millions in summer frenzy
‘Stop pushing me, stop dissing me
It’s my life’, they proclaim
So what next?
The last poets must write soulful songs
For tomorrow’s children.


A More Human Face

from what fabric
shall I weave my memories of you CT?
what thread is firm enough to strap
twelve apostles back-flat to a Table?
perhaps a twine of Bantu vision?*

images of Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head
and Lion’s Bum pleasure exotic tourists**
they romanticise your history
but I reach beneath to unearth your mystery
pick juicy narratives for a new truth

at the V&A Waterfront
vision once camped on a distant horizon
is tattooed on faces in rainbow colours
vignettes of a more human face hatch
in the lobby of Nelson’s gateway

martyrs and tired heroes
unmanacled your nation’s ankles
beyond reconciliation’s truths and half-truths
you must commission frequent readings
lest you forget the price

your streets cheaply swab
tourist sweat from obscure wallets
modest bill for curious pilgrims seeking
alluring stories and music in your wind
legacies of an era fed on dry dreams

they offer pittance for your bliss
you smiling, script a less human face
fractions of your future in beggarly bowls
on the frail palms of street children
urged on by a crouching Rand***

at the traffic light by Parliament house
one from a brood abandoned by your quest
his hope etched upon a bony hand
asked me for a high-five
I let loose my change and tingle his palm

as amber gave way to green
he ran off in search of freedom
leaving me cold fabric and thread enough
to weave a patch of shacks and alien mansions
into frills for my memories of you

* CT = Cape Town
** The Twelve Apostles are a mountain range in Cape Town
*** The Rand is South Africa’s national currency

Robben Island

A piece of land surrounded by water
is all there is to you
in the geographer’s mind

I hear you were once a haven
for sea farers
terrorising the reticence of mainland folks
at other times a warriors’ outpost

I hear you had a pseudonym
for a while because the Empire
had a greater passion for penguins
than your resident seals

but in the court-room of my soul
hearsay has no say. I had to feel
and fill out blank spaces left by history

eye focused on a trough of furious sea-water
I took my long walk to freedom
from the jetty to your hollowed quarry
the cathedral and the post office

along your hand-made highway
and in open-air classroom
birds chirp their island gossip
priceless secrets to tutored ears

your cells are emptied out
but there’s more than a whiff
of your most treasured guests
every tiny grain of your sand a capsule
preserves some tales of lives lived

a stale wind unzipped my tear duct
in honour of your past, today
money spinner for the national treasury
archive to a wild past feeding present pleasure
you’re a monument to the future
pot of gold at the rainbow’s end.


Copyright © Fonthouse Ltd & respective copyright owners. Enquiries to permissions@african-writing.com.