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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

‘Timbila, don’t find rest’ – A love letter to a now deceased poetry journal



Words of Tears

In the last instalment of Timbila – Volume 7Vonani Bila closes the editor’s notes:

It starts with reading. To foster a South African literary tradition, we need to harness all efforts to build a national writers’ association, to encourage a culture of translation, and support multilingual literary journals like Kotaz, Timbila and Botsotso. We need to build libraries and literary museums in rural areas. Let us honour the rural communities that gave us great writers by giving them education facilities, essential social services, and the opportunity to read.

This is after a rant about all the great writers that are products of de-privileged rural South African communities. This was the vision and the basic purpose of Timbila, a role that it wanted to fulfil: unearth and nurture voices in any language and domain. That critical word, “was”: Timbila is no longer with us, the living. The lifeblood that was beating there has fallen victim to the obligations of life. People do grow and maybe Timbila was another folly of youth.

This folly that I have fallen in love with; her tune invaded and extended my time in the loo.

He drinks me like wine
the kind he’d buy
glances at his watch
as he gently taps my emptying bottle
and strokes the unbroken ‘O’ of its lips

The harmony of that Timbila presented the fifth dimension of life, knowledge that words are not for academia and William Shakespeare was not meant for school but for life.

Just one more gulp –
He speaks: I swoon
and spill out the corners of his mouth

It has in its short life unearthed some of the greatest contemporary voices of our democracy. Timbila presented us with the likes of Vonani Bila – the passionate poet who, himself lost and starving within the cracks of this illiterate country, created a platform for the footpath/street corner wordsmith to be realised as a poet. An applause, please.

Goodenough Mashego – a rural wordsmith from rural Mpumalanga. He, who made Shatale township a beautiful living being, caressed and made love to her. Cried in her arms and ridiculed him when he became inhuman.

He takes a handkerchief
and carefully
wipes the mess
before it lands on his shirt.
Smiles apologetically:
A bit of caution, my dear.

The list is endless, Myesha Jenkins – the woman from America who divorced the first world for our beautiful economy class country. Makhosana Xaba – she made a mark because of Timbila, Mpho Ramaano, Mbongeni Khumalo, Kopano Dibakwane, David wa Maahlamela, Moses Mtileni and, from the dungeon of life, Timbila saved and presented to the nation Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, who to this day possesses no power to disempower. The list goes on and on.

by a thirst
that only the devil could
He drinks me.

I would never have crisscrossed the minds of these poets but because Timbila presented them with love and care I knew their deep thoughts. Timbila did not remodel the poet for purposes of exploration but in order to harness and harvest what was inside.

He drinks to the very dregs
of my youth.
And – lost in psychedelic illusions –
exposes the man-child
and his games.

As one who has fallen in love with words, words enjoyed in moments, verses of life, these words more potent than a shot of angel dust or a pull of nyaope.

Futile, I hear you say, but satisfying and addictive. Addictive because you can never get enough of it. You always need it and when the supply goes, WHEN THE SUPPLY CLOSES SHOP, you are left with a scorching headache and nowhere to doctor it. Yes, you can browse your favourite bookshop but Timbila, like angel dust, is never in the mainstream. Drugs are illegal and if one supplier goes another sprouts out but in the case of Timbila, of words, it is exclusive, for very, very few.

My beautiful girl, the bone of my bones once said it as she un-boned herself from my bones:

Poetry doesn’t feed babies

Yes, black men are a virile lot and babies need be fed.

Yet I chose to play –
I allow him to swallow
me in exchange
for this mockery of love:
I am his Venus today,
His piss tomorrow

Timbila, don’t find rest.


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