Crying on the Sand (Safiya alira mwana, olee)

By Zondiwe Mbano

Village girl, pretty girl, why
Are you crying on the sand

See, time and seasons change
The river is shallow and bare

The river bird no longer sings
Nor water beetles trace a trail

As the sun glares on the valley
Baking the sand and the rocks


Village girl, lonely girl, how
Long will you cry on the sand

Your love went to the south
To soak the rock with sweat

Letters can cross land and sea
But will never deliver a kiss

And tears welling up in song
Can empty the heart of love


Married girl, playing the string
And reed instrument at the river

Who will listen to your song
In this slimy and stinky river

With no ponds where expecting
Mothers can fish babies and fish

For this water bears the blood
And condoms from town drains



Safiya alira mwane, olee pamchenga, tampeza adinginyika… (Safiya cries for a baby, we found her murmuring on the sand) a song from Nkhota-kota
The South: South Africa where many Malawian went to work in the mines.


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.