song for mashombela

no wrinkles can dim

the light

of your smile

it silences

the choirs of confusion

on a stage of fear

your love

devours the towers

of despair


i wish to sit in the lap

of your strength

& enjoy the lullabies

of your compassion

sending my stubborn nightmares to sleep

while my baby-mind


for the breasts of your wisdom

and my back

dances to a freedom song

that lives in the palm of your hand

as you wield your sharp tongue

to wean me from my plate of ignorance

let me grow to be a man who despises arrogance

if winter days of my life come

i want to find warmth in the rooms

of your laughter

not in the dingy taverns

of this township

that turn family men



izibotho ezingcolile*

drowned in toxic dams of booze

but i want to drink

from mphahlele’s

well of knowledge


behind the immortal lamps

of biko & sankara

illing road

the air


the assorted scents

of umuthi*

battle with fruits

& vegetables

on the pavement

and a tavern

coughs out


with wet gullets

but dried pockets


buses swallowing up

black men

& women

from various


of exploitation

tauland blues

young men sink

in a tavern corner

with cold bottles of hansa pilsner

deep in the oceans of vodka

they soak their livers

they walk you through

the torn pages

of their lives

glued on empty beer crates

oozing stories of bitterness

stories of dying dreams

and broken families

with cracked lips


to cheap





it’s a solemn



to chase bhabhalazi*


*omadakwane – drunkards
*izibotho ezingcolile – dirty drunkards
*umuthi – African medicine
*isiphithiphithi – chaos
*skyf – refers to cigarette or smoke in South African slang
*bhabhalazi – hangover

Zama Madinana is a South African poet based in Johannesburg. His work has appeared in The Shallow Tales Review, Stanzas, Africanwriter, Poetry Potion and other literary publications. His poems have been published in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and the USA. Madinana’s work focuses on love, politics and social issues. In 2021, he won the third prize in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award. His poetry chapbook, Water & Lights, was published in June 2021. He has performed his poetry in various locations, including Cape Town, Mozambique, and Botswana.

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