“The Marikana Symphony, the Marikana March” and Other Poems by Christine Coates

03 Nov 2016
“The Marikana Symphony, the Marikana March” and Other Poems by Christine Coates

PEN South Africa called for creative responses to the state capture crisis in the form of short essays, fiction or poetry. This is one of the selected entries:

by Christine Coates

The Marikana Symphony, the Marikana March

Do you hear the shouts of men, the creaking clanking mines
Do you see the empty land, this land that belongs to no one?
It’s just a landscape, a landscope, a parcel, a portion;
the knobkerries beat the rhythm, the pangas, the sticks.
Do you hear the spinning wheels, the sounds at the edges,
the beat of fists and feet?
This is the Marikana Symphony, the Marikana March.

Do you smell the dust of that hill, the sickle-shaped leaves,
bare land, crown land, rock rocking away?
Do you remember that April when we would be free,
when life was changing?
Since Sharpeville 52 years – ways of closing our eyes.
This is the Marikana March, the Marikana Symphony.

Do you see the colour of men telling stories
of treasures below the land, finders keepers,
where people are invisible, ways of forgetting.
It’s the man of trees, he walks, he talks.
They’re just paper words, they won’t save you.
It’s the beauty of terra nullius, it’s the Marikana March.

Night is coming, papers blowing.
It comes on the wind, the rusted bushes, miners on random hills.
Can you hear their marching feet, the sound of sticks?
It’s the Marikana Symphony.
Go wash your faces seven times, let the long knives fall,
these bullets won’t harm you.

Do you see the colour of that day, the dust, the rock, the dried-out trees.
do you watch until it becomes a kind of blindness, report, retort?
It’s dreamtime, time for rude awakenings.
It’s a small koppie framing the story, marking,
lettering each murder site;
it’s yellow stars painted on rock, dirt, dust, thorns.

It’s the beauty of terra nullius, it’s the Marikana March;
we’ve become what we most despised.
It’s just a landscape, a landscope, a parcel, a portion.
Look in the dust, it’s the empty land, land belongs to no one.
Night is coming Mr President, Mr Deputy
it’s the night of terra nullius, it’s the Marikana Symphony.

*terra nullius: In International Law ‘terra nullius‘ describes territory that nobody owns so that the first nation to discover it is entitled to take it over, as in “finders keepers”*

signed by the President

(a redaction, a black-out. A birthday present to Jacob Zuma, 12 April 2016)

We, the people, recognise our past;
honour suffered for justice, freedom, respect.
Build, develop, believe – South Africa belongs to all who live in it.
Heal the divisions, lay foundations,
people protected by law.
Improve life, free potential, build
the family of nations.

May God, Nkosi, Morena
seën, bless Afrika.

The Republic is one –
values, dignity, equality, accountability –
this Constitution is supreme.
Citizens are –
equally entitled, equally subject.
Anthem – black, gold, green, white, red and blue,
Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga,
Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu,
elevate and advance
Khoi, Nama and San, sign language
respect German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telegu
and Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit,
and cornerstone shrines.

Affirm values, protect, promote –
binds all organs,
binds a natural person.
Give, develop the common, everyone is equal, has rights.
Not discriminate anyone –
race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin,
colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion,
conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
No discrimination, unfair.
Life. Everyone has the right to life
not to be deprived, detained, violence.
No slavery, servitude, forced labour.
Privacy – person, property, possessions.
Expression – receive or impart artistic creativity,
academic and scientific research – does not extend to
war, violence.
Everyone peaceful, unarmed assemble, picket and present petitions,
make political choices, participate, campaign, cause.
Vote – do so in secret, and
Movement and residence – the right to leave, to enter anywhere.
Practice a trade, occupation, profession,
Form, join, participate, strike, engage in collective bargaining,
Recognise union in collective –
limit this chapter – comply.

Environment everyone –
not harmful to health. Protected present and future –
prevent pollution, promote conservation, secure.
And property –
permit public purpose, public interest,
the current use of history, the commitment to land reform.
About equitable access to all.
Foster, enable, gain tenure of land –
redress – 19 June 1913 – redress.

Housing – the right to have home –
no evictions.
Health – the right to care,
food, water, social security – no one may be refused.
Every child has the right – to a name,
family care, nutrition, shelter, health – to be protected
to be protected
to be protected
not to perform work
not to be used in armed conflict.
And Education – everyone has the right –
maintain standards – impose a duty on the state.

Disputes can be resolved.
Remain silent – or be informed. Be compelled to
make a confession.

Remembrance Day, November 2016

There is a prayer that changes the world
but I can’t remember it.
I pick up five stones –
Sharpeville, Soweto, Boibatong, Marikana

God knows the grass is green here,
trees have a secret life.
Only those willing to climb to the top
will hear their whisper.
What do you think when people
students are shot at all winter?

The sound of water is what I think.

The prayer of five stones –
Sharpeville, Soweto, Boibatong, Marikana
There is a prayer that changes the world.
I can’t remember it.

The sound of water is what I think.