Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Author Archive


del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 by John Eppel

In addition to our dear spouses
and our allocation of small houses,
we will have an escort in every town,
growth-point and village: novice, hand-me-down,
school girl, slut… whatever takes our fancy.
We will relegate to sties all nancy
boys, to kennels all dykes, who will be cured,
in God’s good time, well and truly skewered,
by patriotic soldiers with long poles.
Sell-outs will be buried in ant bear holes
after overturning, or hitting trees.
All judges will be given factories
to asset-strip; and Generals will get mines,
with free access to anything that shines.
All policemen loyal to the Party
will be allowed to keep their bribes.  Hearty
support will be given to servile priests,
and Russians will be entertained with feasts
using cattle from sycophantic whites:
Rhodies with insatiable appetites
for Four-by-fours, biltong, safari camps,
the nostalgic smell of paraffin lamps.
Aliens will be cast into outer
darkness.  The First Lady will obtain her
beauty products from Harrods and Dubai.
We will encourage white people to die
because it’s only then that we can trust
Blair’s kith and kin. “Eternity or Bust”
Is our slogan.  We affirm that bullets
are mightier than ballots, and true lies
make a nation healthy, wealthy, and wise.
We will double the strength of the forces,
give them live ammunition and horses
to crush traitors who disturb our cities
(especially girls who bare their titties.)
We will not tolerate freedom of speech,
freedom of assembly, freedom of each
and every citizen to criticize
our Excellency: all knowing; strong ties
with North Korea; Africa’s Jesus!
Nations prostrate themselves when he sneezes,
and the world entire is shaken to bits
when Big Boy squats on his people – and shits.

Diamonds are a Chef’s Best Friend

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, July 15th, 2013 by John Eppel

Diamonds are a Chef’s Best Friend
(With apologies to Marilyn Monroe)

The poor are glad to share their food,
They love to sing and dance;
But I prefer a man who’s good
For an interest-free advance.
A shake of the hand
May be quite sentimental
But diamonds are a Chef’s best friend.

A view may be grand
But it doesn’t squeeze the rental
From the sick and lame,
And sanctions – sanctions are to blame.

Comrades cry,
Comrades die -
There is nothing for them in the end;
But these rocks infernal
Will give me life eternal;
Diamonds are a Chef’s best friend.

Kimberly Process!
Talk to me, Cecil John Rhodes -
Tell me about your lodes.

There may come a time
When a dude needs to borrow,
But diamonds are a Chef’s best friend.
There may come a time which some fools call ‘tomorrow’,
Try to stop the clock…
But get those rocks or lose your socks.

Fools will fly
When stocks are high,
With nowhere to go when stocks are low.

It’s then that they panic
And become quite manic;
Diamonds are a Chef’s best friend.

I’ve heard of teachers
Who come out on their wages,
But diamonds are a Chef’s best friend;
And I think that preachers
Who enrich themselves by stages
Are better bets
If they let it get bigger yet.

Time goes by,
The people cry
All the same – sanctions are to blame.

Diamonds!  Diamonds!
Pear cut or square cut -
Diamonds are a Chef’s best friend.

Corvus albus

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 by John Eppel

Who’s that knocking on my door?
It’s not those War Vets any more -
It sounds like a hammer with a nasty claw?

Who’s that clumping on my roof?
Not the Chef with a cloven hoof -
It sounds like a liar with substantial proof.

Who’s that banging at my gate?
It’s not Big Daddy designate -
It sounds like a braai fork on an old tin plate.

Who’s that beating my dustbin lid?
It’s not the ego, not the id -
It sounds like a stick against an iron grid.

Who’s that singing sweet and low?
It’s not Dear Uncle on the go -
It sounds – my God – it sounds like a crow!

Smell Zimbabwe

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Monday, January 28th, 2013 by John Eppel

There’s a
whiff of
hope in
the air.

Its base
note is

Aloes at Hillside Dams

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 by John Eppel

Aloes at Hillside Dams

There is something human about aloes.
They smell  -  and feel, if you probe the slimy
parts – like sex.  They have cuticular roots
and they object to being planted in rows.
Their welcome is arm-like, sometimes grimy
with white scale, sometimes polished absolutes.
Their process of dying is shameless: top
down (or bottom up).  In their multitudes
they elaborate these Dams, not, somehow,
as genus, or variety, or crop,
but as comrades, citizens, darlings, dudes.
Their spaced teeth are not vicious.  Then and now,
past and present, something human. The name
invites a greeting… all winter… aflame.

John Eppel

White Boys in Africa

del.icio.us TRACK TOP
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 by John Eppel

I went to Grahamstown for a week to visit my daughter, Ruth, who is completing her Masters on memoirs by white Zimbabwean women.  I attended a colloquium where Masters and PhD students present aspects of their dissertations to supervisors and other interested lecturers.  My daughter’s paper went well although one of the lecturers, a white woman with an excellent reputation as a teacher, queried the sincerity of Alexandra Fuller’s second book, Scribbling the Cat.  I tended to agree with her and wondered aloud if it wasn’t the same with Peter Godwin, that his books had become progressively less sincere, seemingly written to order.  I had inadvertently lit a fuse.  She made academic mincemeat of Godwin, and climaxed with, ‘I’m sick of hearing about white boys in Africa!’  I got a distinct impression that she was including this old white boy.  I felt like replying – since I’m not an academic and don’t need to be politically correct – I felt like replying, ‘Well, I’m sick of hearing about white girls in academia’… but I chickened out.

While I was in Grahamstown, Dan Wylie launched his new poetry collection, Sailor, Poems for my Father.   Using Homer’s Odyssey as a frame, it sets out upon a son’s quest for his father.  Every poem is a gem.  It was Dan who drew my attention to David Hughes’ disparaging comment about me in his influential book, Whiteness in Zimbabwe.  Race, Landscape and the Problem of Belonging. I’d like to reply to David Hughes in this blog.  Here is what he says on page 10 of his book:-

In “I and the Black Poet” John Eppel contrasts himself  – savouring “a memory of crocus bulbs” – and his counterpart: “He focuses on Sharpeville and Soweto”.  That poem first appeared in the 1970s.  By 2007 Eppel had written a handful of novels centering on political and economic corruption in Bulawayo (e.g. 2002 and 2006), but his poetry still fetishized crocuses, the Matobo hills, and so on.  The choice of subject was deliberate.  Eppel was, as he explained to a literary magazine, trying “to find a voice which merges British form (prosody) with African content (mostly nature)”.   Blacks – evidently capable of killing whites and being killed by them – still did not seem to rank as publishable “content”.

I try to teach my school pupils about the often dangerous power of rhetoric  – selectivity, generalisation, emotional manipulation… as a satirist I use it myself.  Politicians use it, priests use it, moms and dads use it; but one doesn’t expect trained academics to use it.  Hughes deliberately – he can’t be stupid – misreads my poem.   In fact it is a confirmation of his attitude to white Zimbabweans  (which is how I felt in the 70s, more than 30 years ago).  The tone of the poem is not assertive, it is apologetic, self-mocking.  Here it is:-

I and the Black Poet

I have my subject in focus,
now  I must focus my poem.
It’s a memory of crocus
bulbs.  The memory is dim

but on page ninety-seven
of What Flower is That?
there’s a picture of a pink one.
The petals are opened – not flat

like a daisy, or just,
like a protea, but halfway
like me.  Now, with care, I must
arrange my words so that the ‘gay

little flowers…pop right out
of the ground in earliest spring.’
Shall they be white, or violet
or yellow or blue?  And shining?

Shall they shining?  Not bright
like stars, or dullish like paper,
but halfway like spoons.  O the light
in the pink of this picture

is lovely.  It half opens
me to the sky.  Like silver-striped
leaves my arms follow seasons
never cold enough for a typed

memory of crocuses.
Too hot, this earth, for words to grow
Into my bulbs.  He focuses
on  Sharpeville and Soweto.