AMAGODUKA AT GLENCOE STATION by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali

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We travelled a long journey 

through the wattle forests of Vryheid,

crossed the low-levelled Blood River

whose water flowed languidly

 as if dispirited for the 

shattered glory of my ancestors

We passed the coalfields of Dundee 

blackheads in the wrinkled face 

of Northern Zululand 

until our train ultimately came 

to a hissing stop at Glencoe,

Many people got off

leaving the enraged train 

to snort and charge at the night 

on its way to Durban.

The time was 8 p.m.

I picked up my suitcase,

sagging under the weight of a heavy overcoat 

I shambled to the non-European Maleswaiting room.

The room was crowded

the air hung, a pall of choking odour,

 rotten meat, tobacco and sour beer.

Windows were shut tight

against the sharp bite of winter.

Amagoduka sat on bare floor

their faces sucking the warmth

of the coal fire crackling in the corner.

They chewed dried bread 

scooped corned beef with rusty knives

and drank mgombothi from the plastic can

which they passed from mouth to mouth.

They spoke animated by 

and laughed in thunderous peals.

A irl peeped through the door

they shuddered at the sudden cold blast, 

jumped up to fondle and leer at her 

Hal ngena Sisil - Oh! come in sister!

She shied like a frightened filly 

banged the door and bolted.

They-broke into a tumultuous laughter.

One of them picked up a guitar 

plucked it with broken finger nails 

caressed its strings with a castor oil bottle

it si hed like a jilted girl. 

'You play down! Phansi! Play Dhe whispered.

Another joined in with a concertina,

its sound fluttered in flowery notes 

like a butterfly picking pollen from flower to flower.

They wo began to sing,

their voices crying for the mountains 

and the hills of Msinga, stripped naked of

their green garment.

They crossed rivers and streams, 

gouged dry by the sun rays,

where lowing cattle genuflected 

for a blade of grass and a drop of water 

on riverbeds littered with carcasses and bones.

They spoke of hollow-cheeked maidens 

heaving drums of brackish water 

from a far away fountain.

They told of big-bellied babies

sucking festering fingers 

instead of their mothers shrivelled breasts.

Two cockroaches

as big as my overcoat buttons

jived across the floor 

snatched meat and bread crumbs 

and scurried back to their hideout.

The whole group joined in unison: 

curious eyes peered through frosted windows 

'Ekhaya bafowethu! - Home brothers"

We come from across the Tugela river 

we are going to EGoli! EGoli! EGoli! 

where they'll turn us into moles 

that eat the gold dust 

and spit out blood.

We'll live in compounds 

where young men are pampered 

into partners for older men

We'll visit shebeens

where a whore waits for a fee

to leave your balls burning

with syphilitic fire

If the gods are with us 

Oh! beloved black gods of our forefathers

What have we done to you 

Why have you foresaken us

we'll return home 

to find our wives nursing babies

unknown to us 

but only to their mothers and loafers.

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