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.