The children far from urban Maseru, the children of the real Lesotho,
(A country of mountains, anchored in the sky with the stones of Africa,
a land of beauty, death and love,
Of corn and useless flowers, cattle and Aloe,
Of wild skies and serene earth,
And women stooped to sweep the dirt and weep,
Without tears or fear that will show.)
They have been nurtured into greed.
Trained by other passing fools
Who come in clouds of dry
Dusty ignorance and rented cars to pass, not pause,
where God stores storms for future cause.
(And yes, I am certain there will be storms,)
The children sprung from great Moshoeshoe
He who offered heart and tribe and land to the desperate
Devourers of his family.
He who tried to welcome Boers,
Knowing their guns and locust history,
They now plead and curse for whites to give them candy.
“Sweets” cry the youngest ones,
“Give Candy” the older
“Give me some Candy please” the educated, skilled and bolder.
Whose grandfathers fought betrayers,
Leaving bloody footprints in their land
Step by step back into the loving mountains
Where they made their stand,
These kids, beg with open hand.
It’s terribly amusing for some, fun without a fee,
To fling candy out the windows and turn to watch them
Scramble for their cut and learn to be like those of us
Who know greed sensuously and pray to god, “I want it free.”
So they choose, in innocence, how they want to be,
And I brooded on how to best respond, in ignorance, how to make them see.
Can I tell them of their Ancestors, the trials they had to face,
Or the courage of the mothers and fathers of their race?
I can’t, I’m ignorant, a passing shadow of useless noises when he speaks.
They will grow and learn for years and I’ll be gone away in weeks.
There were but two times I spoke to them and thoughts passed from me to them.
Once I greeted boys with “Dumelang bo-ntate”1 and they laughed and clapped their hands delighted with the linguistic capers of this monkey from foreign lands.
But they need to hear, or I need to speak, of the price that they will pay
On their trip from past to future, before they lay in deep red clay.
How to help these tender ones in their search to be like me?
I decided to roll the window down and holler,
“Ke e jele!” 2
© Pavo Real
1Greetings, gentlemen. ( I am told this was startlingly age inappropriate).
2I ate it!
Pavo is right. The greeting is inappropriate for boys younger than oneself. The appropriate greeting would have been, “Lumelang banna,” or “Hello guys.” Sesotho is rather strict in the way one person addresses another. I hope you enjoy this magnificent poem. If you need further information on Sesotho greetings, check out this post.