Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Sihle Ntuli





The Jazz Bantu

A fade-in so silky smooth,
like a night spent in Masekela’s Tunisia,

the slow     the gradual
groove sliding inside
inner walls of the living room,

illuminating    dark hued blues,
movement of the hands   smothering drums

the bump       the bop         the sway
the soles        the way

                     the feet  of Gil Scott Heron
                     hit the ground
                     on   Running.

the delight   of kaleidoscope kiss
                   on melanin skin      glowing

fury of the conga invoking ghosts
the clash    the crash
the climaxing  crescendo

a soundsystem science
a haunting séance
                   then suddenly,

the spirit of the Jazz Bantu,

hologram of the epoch,
slow burn     the gentle death
              to the point of echo

to less vibration
              a gradual let-down
of hollow walls,
               the residue,
the slow fade-out,
               the spirit vanishing

with the very same mystique     that it came.



Meditations on the Near Death                                             

                                 I will tell you about
     the vicious slobbering dogs       of suburbia
      and how they would growl                           how they sounded different,
   because this country of my skull       in the past        the mauling of so many
      that looked just like me
     armed with only that vulgar word, voetsek             a word that was no match
      for canine teeth,      locked deep into the flesh
      of the trauma left     there,
      informed by the theory     of ‘die swart gevaar’
           ( or black danger )
      their owners            are yet to make the time     to unteach their beasts
         may God help us       and teach us how to         run.

                                           I will tell you of how once,
       an Afrikaner man                     having just interviewed me for a job,
       took me out for lunch              to a restaurant in Bloemfontein,
       and afterwards
       he insisted                that i do not touch the bill,
        for the food               that i had
        just swallowed
        not tasted,
                                                    I read somewhere
   that the loss of sensation in the tongue is called
     he asked me to say grace          for him
     to bless his food            in my mothers tongue
     the loss        started      shortly after
      I obliged him,

                         and there is so much more to it that than this,
     about a year and
     four months’ worth,

   but for now
    I am left waiting for closure
   of the flesh     raw         open       red
   gentle breeze
 like stroke of pain
  in this moment,
   there is still
    a wincing.



In the past,                      I have sung
with hush tones             and under my breath
from my mouth              down to my throat
and now, to my protest       the pruning of die stem,
                                         the oldest part
                                         of my countries anthem,
                                         always leaves behind
                                          a taste of blood.


Photograph of Sihle Ntuli by Niamh Walsh-Vorster.

Sihle Ntuli is a South African poet and classicist living in Durban. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Classical Civilisations and has previously lectured at the University of the Free State and was shortlisted for the DALRO Poetry Prize in 2017. Ntuli is the author of the poetry chapbook Rumblin (uHlanga Press 2020). His work appears in notable South African and African publications, including being featured in the anthology Years of Fire and Ash: South African Poems of Decolonization (Jonathan Ball 2021) and in well-known journals such as Lolwe, Down River Road, and Olongo Africa. More from this author →