Children of Clay (for Gloria)


By Zondiwe Mbano

A girl took wet brown clay, spat
into it, and pressed and beat it with
Her palms; then spitting into it again
And carefully rolling it between her
Open palms, she moulded the torso
To which she joined the arms, legs
And head. Then with exactness, using
A stalk of grass, she formed the mouth
Nostrils, and eyes. Finally with saliva
On the stalk, she polished the boy firm
And glossy, and stood him in the sun
And wind. But when she came back
She found him fallen, dry and broken.

A woman, hopeless, at a mortuary
In Blantyre, poured out bitterness:
God, why did you snatch my son
My only son, Dongo. Cruel God,
Why strike an innocent woman?

Another woman, broken-hearted
At Makhanga in the Lower Shire
Lamented: who delivered my son
To the enemy? Who snatched my
Only covering, leaving me naked?

God on high, riding the thunderbolt
When will you take pity on children
Of clay? Look how they easily crack
And break up, in the rain, in the wind,
In the sun, leaving the mothers broken.

Dongo or Chidongo, a name that means earth, soil, or clay.


Bruce Zondiwe Mbano is a lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Skills at Chancellor College. He has authored short-stories, plays and poems, some of which have been published in The Fate of Vultures(BBC prize-winning poetry), Heinneman and The Haunting Winds(published by Dzuka). His poem The Viphya won second prize in the 2000 Peer Gynt Literally Award. Mbano’s has published beautiful poems on Afreecan Readincluding, Eyes of AgeRoad to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.


This Week in Literature: Top 10 in line for literary award

The Sunday Times Literary Awards (STLA) in association with Porcupine Ridge, has announced its finalist for this year. The winners (who will each receive R100 000) will be announced on June 24.

The five novels short-listed for the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize are:

The Printmaker by Bronwyn Law-Viljoen (Umuzi)

Period Pain by Kopano Matlwa (Jacana Media)

Little Suns by Zakes Mda (Umuzi)

The Woman Next Door by Yewanda Omotoso (Chatto&Windus/PRH)

The Safest Place by Mark Winkler (Umuzi).

The five books short-listed for the Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction are:

Under Nelson Mandela Boulevard: Life among the stowaways by Sean Christie (Jonathn Ball Publishers)

Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the search for human Origins by Christa Kuljian (Jacana Media)

Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre by Greg Marinovich (Penguin Books)

My Own Liberator by Dikgang Moseneke (Picador Africa)

Letters of Stone: From Nazi Germany to South Africa by Steven Robins (penguin Books)