Fancies idle (iii) – Peter Abraham
Following my blog post on Lonmin and the horror story of the miners in South Africa, here’s a poem by Peter Abrahams from 1938 from ‘You Better Believe It: Black Verse in English’, published by Penguin. Abrahams, says the editor, “served as publicity secretary to the Fifth Pan-African Congress” in 1945 – led by the likes of George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta. Born in South Africa to Ethiopian father and ‘Cape-coloured mother’, he lived in England after the war, where he had “An astonishingly creative decade”. After that he moved to Jamaica. Here is the poem:
Mine dumps of the Rand.
These pyramids speak hands
Torn and bleeding,
Black, hard, rocky,
Like the black earth, wind-swept and touched by time
Torn nails and twisted thumbs
And missing spaces where the first and third fingers lived.
These pyramids speak eyes
Turned dim by gas and semi-blindness by day,
Deep, thousands of feet deep in the heart of the ocean-like earth,
And the hardness of the sun to turn them dim.
These pyramids speak lungs,
Tortured and touched with the coat of death,
Daily piling up layer upon layer
And wrecking the soul in a lung tearing cough,
Hour by hour with the passing of the night.
These pyramids speak bitterness
Of black men,
Thousands of black men, wrenched from their mother-earth,
And turned to gold-makers for the wealth of the earth
That grant them not the right of human thought.
Scattered over the body of the Rand,
Mighty in their grandeur and aloofness,
Monuments of the Twentieth Century Pharaohs,
Speak the world,
Not thousands of black men,
But millions of toilers,
Welded into a rock of firm aloofness,
Like them, made of the soul of suffering;
These pyramids speak of revolt.