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Rootless: A Poem by Moffat Sebola

Image: Ludo Rouchy via Flickr


I feel it’s worth speaking fair,
Allowing my being full vent: I am proudly African!

My skin shines dark against sunset, and,
My eyes burn, spewing red-hot lava in the twilight.

My smile at times dies like a candle burning low,
That candle –which when lifted high to my face shows
The glow in my eyes sunned by the smile of the sky.

I’m less inhibited and my heartbeat is untamed,
It endlessly gallops in this heart that longs for wholesome love.

I spread my appetites wide, waiting for seasons
To bring round the dark moments that will hide my nakedness.

The blackness of night weaves its tapestry of mystery
Like a spider throwing its strings to catch my innocence,
This spider that always strives towards the end of its patterned web.

I am a rare African being
Monotony dulls my creative impulse. I am different.
When others go dry, that’s when I enjoy my drink.

Nothing will soften this clay that makes my authenticity, not even a thousand pities or kisses,
I’ll never suffer a pinch of my African essence to be wasted.

So, I thought together we’d turn a new leaf, forgetting the past on our backs
Striped with traces of whips, during our struggle to move from house to home.

To be in a place where none of us would be disinherited like an uprooted tree,
Dancing to the beat of the pride in our stride, but a prophet has no honour at his own home.

I saw my brothers treated like foreigners in the continent of their birth, and in shameful silence,

I sat and stared.

And I realized that I too was homeless at my home, rootless; fatherless.

I stood in the middle of the valley of my dreams and I felt a song rise in my soul
A saxophone would flare wide the trunk of its nose, its noise, its notes and let the world know
That I too have my own music to play. I have no saxophone; only a cargo of wishes.

But the memory of mother smiling paints the canvass of my imagination lovingly.
Mother knows how to empty my heart of all sorrows.

I’d never sell myself even
If it was for the pleasure of seeing my wallet, my stomach full.

Sometimes I try to stretch my tastes by doing things like bidding for a horse,
But how do you bid for a horse when you loathe its rider?

Sometimes I feel like wrenching the fiery fork of deceits
And the whip of temptations from Satan, just to flog him for the chaos he causes in souls.

I hate to admit; my heart is mastered by greed and fed by stronger, stranger diets such as…
Maybe I am just a figure of my own, drawing my heritage from the prosaic shadows of my forefathers.

There are things that excite the heart of a young man
Like the love of some sweet maiden –an image of purity in the prime of youthful times.

But sometimes love comes with calamities –and
Our early errors made from its first stings carry the harshest of consequences too.
And there is never order and calm in the heart that has fallen in love.

I want to live a life where nights do not seem too long
I don’t want to live in a time where I’d be too old and too heavy to chase my dreams.

Come, let’s drink and be merry,
Come, let’s drink and be angry.

Leaning on a human being is like opening your heart to a swarm of arrows,
You will be left pierced by the very reed you thought you’d lean on.

And lust tends to put the heart in shackles from which no struggle could ever loose.

When age catches up with us, our youthful vigour goes to eternal sleep;
Our eyes become too dim and are no longer drawn by the green pastures.
We just sit on a rocking chair watching days and nights rolling the carpets of our recollections.

I didn’t know that when I vowed to love you forever I’d have
Created a yoke for myself that’d breed rejection to the only one from whom I sought affection.

What does a good man do when his heart is visited by forbidden desires? Does he sweep his heart clean? Won’t the demons return with seven more and find it a ready-decorated home?

There are nights where my heart is tanked full with hope to see the sunrise
But the expected caress I yearn for never comes.

Some wives have no careers other than following their lost husbands, to nowhere.
Some husbands no longer come home; they were told they’ve short legs that do not kick long.

When the time finally comes for me to finally surrender to that dreary look of the grave
I’ll stand firm and then approach it, set and stone-faced.

I’ll toss my heart’s longings into the sewage of forgotten memories
I’ll be emasculated of all my sensibilities and dragged by the chains of my frozen being.

I’ll seek pardon from all the few feathers I’d have ruffled, here and there, because
I want, to try, to make a dignified exit.

One day all our empires will collapse and send tremors through all these walls that divide us.

When truth seeks ejection from within us, there must be no holds barred
No sacred cows and no embellishments because, only that way, total freedom would dawn.

I hate it when my beauty sleep is interrupted and left cramped in the prison of nightmares
Where forgotten figures from the past come and leave my once-hidden wounds undressed.

Tonight could be another of those nights where father would have had a few too many beers
He might come home dead-drunk. Mother will chide him as always; she has no fists but her searing insults will cut him down to shameful size.

Tonight mother’s pillow might be her own puddle of blood.
But mother says she has a mellowed heart, hardened skin, she never leaves him or us.

Father will probably wake up chewing a matchstick like nothing ever happened
Our hearts will be haemorrhaging while our faces simulate those in Disneyland.

Father will rise before dawn to find any place where beer is cheapest
Sister will rise to boil bathing water on our only hearth; she will bleach, beat the blackness out of her skin and wait…

Soon we will see clouds of dust. It’d be uncle Madlisa’s car. He has come for her services.
When he leaves there will be grocery in our shack. Mother will not ask anything and we won’t either.

The thought of home galled and maddened me,
But I chose to find shelter in the desert of my loneliness
When night arrived, I’d worm my way in and wrap myself with my half, worn-out blanket.

Burnt out, blacked out; I’d snore away all the miseries that wanted to dispossess my existence.
I’d dream of my lonely voice monopolizing all of the world’s political and economic debates.

While I still feel the fervour of my youth I’ll share all my heart’s outburst of interests
And in some sort of self-poised air I’ll catapult all my nets to catch that one best fish.

This world has beaten me flat into a pulp so many times that I even lost my shadow
I’ve been made to feel like a mosquito squashed with a sledgehammer, but,
Like some immortal kite, I’d still find a way to dance even in the worst of hurricanes.

I have fought and lost so many battles,
I have loved…and I have been loved, but there is the love I never received: Father left before I was conceived.

Poem © Moffat Sebola
Image: Ludo Rouchy via Flickr


  1. A great poem indeed.
    It is clear, Moffat Sebola is a sublimely budding poetic genius of our time. His subtle and plastic touch of words, weaving them as if some forces of mystery from the scale of the stars, juts exactly the beauty and gift that poetry really is.

    I believe, in our pursuit of a higher perfection through the agency of art, to recall the higher things, Sebola’s writing, poetic beauty, can inspire us to acquire the impetus we need you achieve the higher perfection of pur culture and of a new psychological make up to pursuit higher things.

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