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Darfur: Poems by Elizabeth Z. Tshele


whose blood is this that baptizes the wind?
this blood, also splattered over that black river?
whose, whose soul was that?, that soul, twisted
like a red face towel and stuffed into the muzzle
of a gun, just whose body was this skull attached to?
this long skull that looks a little intelligent? Excuse
me but whose beautiful child was that?, her long legs
hacked off and left frozen in scattered flight
towards a reddened road, whose? this red empty shoe,
ah, it’s a Gucci, but whose? if you don’t know,
you don’t know, I’ll let it slide, like that pitch-black
body over there, sinking head-first into a dungeon,
slide, like the odor of screams and fear that just passed,
if you don’t know then I won’t ask no more,
just pass the coca-cola, cheers comrade, today
we wake up again to the fatal poetry of fat, green flies
high on shit-the diarrhea of  bloody machetes
is also the stench of a pregnant corpse’s head
flung far back against a still-born Darfur moment
in case you missed Rwanda, just in case.



blackened blues cling to the sealed lips
of women, weary of absentee husbands
and lovers busy working black bended
backs in the dark mines of  Johannesburg,
the women become faithless child brides
of time learning to love it  while we become
the lengthening shadows of our fathers,
we are the children of the men who fled
Zimbabwe for South Africa’s mines,
maybe to return and maybe not, who knows,
leaving behind newly-born human tokens,
still souvenirs clutched tight clutched deep
around the stomach in fatherless husbandless
nights, we are the haunting drumbeats of hijacked
moments between tattered sheets, we are discord
tunes lulling our mothers with hopeful hopes
of their returning, overdue soul mates while our hands
are frantically trying to hold our sprouting
heads down so we do not grow up to follow
the long-faded footsteps of the fathers we never



‘been to London
to look at the Queen.
‘also been to the motherland
to look at mama. The Queen
can not do without her glasses,
sitting and looking at nothing
and other things. Mother’s eyes
have never known any glasses,
no thank you, looking at the earth
of rock, as she bends back broken
in a red field, sick child strapped on,
singing of the war next door,
the Aids in my brother’s home
and praying for two rain clouds
while waiting for the government
to send her pension that’s overdue.



Elizabeth Z. Tshele
Elizabeth Z. Tshele
Elizabeth Z. Tshele was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Cornell University in the US. She is better known now as NoViolet Bulawayo, the pen name under which she published her multi-award-winning debut novel, 'We Need New Names.'


  1. Very good poems rich in fresh and vivid imagery.The absurdity of contrasting worlds of sufferers and observers in the Darfur crisis is made even more powerful by the unsentimental treatment of the tragic situation. Good to know you are still writing Elizabeth.

  2. you are becoming the great writer that i never imagined you would be but knew you could be.Just saw an old picture of yours on tabs fb profile and felt a tingle , almost shed a tear

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