Natalie Williams

 

 

  Catch a Broomstick to Heaven

It's the little things, so my momma would say.
Her face coloured with red African soil.
In a world of lions and antelope,
The grass was our game.

Growing up is unfortunate, but cannot be delayed.
In a world where we had nothing,
We had everything made.

We rode broomsticks to heaven,
In my old world of youth,
The cooking pot was full.
But in this brave, new world,
The fires are out now, the food is cold.
The pots are empty, the broomsticks are broken.



Dying Eyes*


Little boy with your shiny white teeth
You are smiling
In the heat of the afternoon
Arms outstretched
You have nothing
But your dying eyes
They say to me
“Have you seen my dying eyes?
My crying eyes,
When none shall see
They are brown and yours are blue
I speak so different to you
My dying eyes are your lying eyes.”

*Street Kids are part of daily life in Zimbabwe. They are the orphans of Zimbabwe, hungry and starving and often when they ask for food, or sell their wares they are often told “I don’t have any money.”. This poem represents that exchange.




Bread and Jam

The sun has cracked a golden egg across the sky.
Full and round it beats larger and larger;
Like a giant gooseberry pie.

We are picking in the garden,
Eating white bread and jam.

Our feet are dusty as we return.
Our pockets filled, our stomachs swollen,
We cannot be happier with our bread and jam.



Past Years*

There was a year we had no water
No running fresh or biting cold
We bathed in tin pots
In the vanishing daylight
We watched the sun go down

There was a year we had no food
No pepper or grated cheese
We ate what we grew
With our earth coloured hands
We saw the days pass by

There was a year
We did our homework by candlelight
We cooked on a fire outdoors
Oh what a life we had

*This poem represents the many years of drought in Zimbabwe when I was a child.





Homesick

Far.
It is not long since the moon crept in
And broke a few silver paces across the deck.
Not Far
Since the light held your eyes,
As a lonely crystal flew
Across your face.
Liquid.

It is not far.
Since the day waved goodbye to morning
Welcoming politely the afternoon.
It is not far,
Since the earth jumped to caress you,
Warm its kiss upon your face encased in nevers and not evers.
It is not far
To walk to hear your laughter.
No,
It is not far.






The Earth Will Catch You

I remember, the earth would say,
I remember the songs you have sung,
I remember the sound of your voice,
The smell of your tears,
See how beautiful I am, the earth would say.

I remember, the earth would say,
Each time you have fallen,
The promises you’ve made to the sky,
The days that have gone before,
The soul you have shown,
See how beautiful you are, the earth would say.

I remember, the earth would say,
I remember the way you fall,
And the way I shall catch you,
With my hope and your dreams...
We are one, you and I...
Earth and soul...
See how beautiful we are, we shall say.





Coming Home

Hear the west wind fall,
Hear how the mighty call,
As the green leaves hush me coming home.

Their embrace is wet and sweet,
In their dark shadows our eyes meet,
I am welcome here
Where those have past,
Through melodies and lightning fast,
Sighing in the waters pool,
This is home and not forgotten,
Memories brought like seeds of night.





We Are Going Higher and Higher
Dedicated to the women of WOZA Zimbabwe

Hear how I roar.
Woman.
Steal me but hear me call.
I sing the songs of yesterday.

We shall rise and beat our hearts.
The sounds you hear break fear apart.
You shall not forget your past but…
Bring it here,
And leave it here.

Though you may share your curse,
The words I speak can’t be reversed,
We are connected by the blood we’ve seen,
By the things we’ve forgotten,
The places we’ve been,
And though you may whisper sorrow to me,
I whisper back our Victory,
I let these sounds pass me by,
We are going, yes,
We are going high.





Blood Moon

It was a simple day.
Just like any day or other.
The sun broke a few heads,
Nearly drove me under.

We’d been driving with no end,
We were coloured with the dust,
I’d seen full moons many times,
When we’d been broken down and lost.

It was past sunset and into the night,
Sticky hands from sweets I shouldn’t have ate,
When through the blackest haze of an African night,
There it was in bright red glory.

So full I could reach out to touch it,
So bold I could not miss it,
So powerful I could barely glimpse it,
We shared a moment, blood moon and I.





If I Were Home Again

If I saw you again,
I’d be less afraid,
More grown-up
Less prone to whimper.

If I saw you again,
I’d let my heart rule my motions.
I’d take more breaths
And yet more sunshine.

If I saw you again,
I’d be buried in the African beat,
I’d be its quavers,
I’d be its meat.

If I were home again,
I’d be hiding in the grassy plains,
I’d enjoy the thunder rains,
I’d be living in the herd,
I’d be its spoken word.

If I were home,
I’d not run from the masks,
Or black faces I did not understand,
I’d reach out my hand
To the lion’s roar.






By The Waterfall

By the waterfall
Where the scent of the earth
Meets the sweet water
Hot skin in the cold

Trekking through the red clay
In the sweat of the afternoon
Our eyes heavy with rising heat
We moved together, beat by beat

We’d reached the heavens beyond the sky
With nothing but time to pass us by
The mossy rocks kissed our feet
The water rushed as we made laughing retreat
There could be nothing more sweet
Than sleeping by the waterfall

We awoke and sure we had not dreamt
The waters flowing heaven sent
We dove in and not one care or two
We swam so deep in those waters blue

We climbed upon the rocks so high
We sneaked behind the waters lie
Creating shapes with our hands and feet
Through the cold shaft gushing beat by beat




The Scent Of Rain

You can feel the earth begin to quiver
The heavy clouds stumble and shiver
As if time falls asleep and stops
Falls to the ground drop by drop
The smell, so fresh with promise
Here I am, says the rain,
Stop what you’re doing and wait till I’m done again
Children laughing, you can’t help but smile
Worries and woes are gone a while
One by one the rain hits the ground
Filling the air with a thunderous sound
You can start again it says
The rain has no pain or cares
Hope catches you unawares
Things
It's the things we don't say.
The things we try to find
the words for.

The things we find in
each other's eyes,
The things we create for ourselves,
in each other's disguise.

The things that cause us pain
we cannot share,
the things we seek and never find
The things that take us there.

The things we never speak of,
That we never dare to break,
It's the things that make us,
The things that take us,
The things that shake us,
The things we cannot name,
The things that give us shame.

It's the things we never speak of,
That we know and whisper to the night
When no-ones looking
When there's no light
The things that take us by the hand
And make us understand
How far we are from letting go.

It's the things we sometimes share between,
The things we speak of once
When we look into each other's eyes
And for a moment,
Just one moment
We lose the things that hold us still
The things in our disguise.




Death In The Water

They say, you know, that you can smell it.
They say that there is a sense of something;
The fears of those who have passed:
A warning.

They say that you can feel them near.
Under the murky waters
Yellow eyes that pierce the soul
Rip your bravery limb from limb

They say that there is no greater fear
When, by the waters they appear
Camouflaged by warmth and light
Quick and foreboding like the African night
They snatch the souls of those who wander
Dragging them and all their life to the under.





Flying Fish

Sitting by the sweet waters
As the cold rush hits my skin
I can feel Africa flowing throughout
Flowing out and in.

My rock chair is hot and firm
Heatened by the midday sun
I am alone and yet I’m not
I am everyone.

The air is thick with peace
And I am still in my youth
Tranquil for the first time
While all the world rushes through.

As the waters pass in front of me
Connected to the earth time by time
A silver fish with eyes so mighty
Through the waters surface pierced
Into the air, brave new world and back again
Just like that, and back again.





The Smell Of An Elephant

It was on a late Sunday night
When the world was dark from light
When the three of us were small and sleeping
We heard a noise of stolen creeping
A crack, a snap, a thud; the earth shaking
We could hear the trees were breaking
We lifted out our little heads
Still sleepy from our little beds
Before our eyes could make our sight
We heard an almighty bite
The smell of earth was in the air
We could sense that it was there
Out in the shadows it seemed so far
The heat releasing from the tar
And then it was so very near
We could feel the heat off its skin right there
We were so very small watching just us three
The night, the car, and the breaking tree.




Sticks and Sandals*

My gnarly-eyed wooden keeper
Just like the feet that take each step
You have led me into the future
I can rest with all my weight on you
And know that you can break no vows
As I feel your history within my palm
Pulsing through the blood of my forebears
This circle that I’m stood within
Circle of honours made and promise past
Sensing the wind and storm
With you to guide me, I am never alone.

*You will often see an African man, an elder, walking with a stick. Especially in the bush, a bush man will walk with a stick. These sticks are used for all sorts of reasons, a friend, a snake-killer, for long distance walking, support and so on. This poem is a dedication to the sticks that have supported me in the past.




Silky Heat

It is then
When all the
World has ceased
Flowing soft and yet
Utterly still like hot silk
The red sand slips between our toes
We can see the world from between our eyes
Squinting into the distant horizon
Connected to the earth
We are always one
Combined by wonder
We drift and melt
Into the ground
Eyes closed
Sleeping
We
Are
Always
Dreaming


Lioness

Do you ever wonder?
When you look into the white of my eyes?

What fear I’ve seen…
What legends I’ve broken…

Never tiring.
Deadly beautiful.

It is that moment .
Isin’t it?

When you and I are opposite facing,
In the grass and by the trees.

My strength and your wonder,
We cannot run from what we are.
We are the meaning of truth in the moment.
We are the beat of the drum.

You may wonder, but I do not.
I am wonder.





Mountain Grasslands

I can lie in the grasses
As tall as the blue sky
Itchy on my face
The ants make me their home
I can stare at the clouds
As they float their way to nowhere
I can squint at the sun
So far away it reaches out to me
Marking its way across my skin
I can close my eyes and dream of things
I can sleep safely there until many an hour
Passes me by
As I lie in the grass as tall as the blue sky
Home is where you lie
And where the blue sky passes you by





They Say

They say that in the red red sand,
That whispers dripping through your hand,
That you can see what’s gone before.
They say the legends speak on their own,
That they whisper to those coming home,
That they breathe in the wind of night,
That they dream creation with loss of sight,
That they see warriors who have fallen past,
Their spears piercing until the last,
That the sound of their wishes carries us through.

They say in the sand you can see your own future,
It can tell you where you have come from in order to be here,
That the magic of life is breathing within,
That the grains you crush between your fingers can take you right in,
That the portal you stand on is the truth of your heart,
That the sound of the drum beating can tear your mask apart.




Ancestors

Ay-yah, hear them cry
Their feet stamping
Into the sky
You who have fallen
Shall live in the sky
You who have honoured
Shall watch us pass by
You who have our blood
Will flow with us to the water
You who have given us life
Shall make us reach higher




The Bird and the Ant*

The ant was walking weary,
Back and forth to it’s nest,
Carrying leaves and other things,
Used to trying and doing its best.

It carried every day and night,
The work never seemed to end,
But the one thing the ant was never without;
Was ant family and friend.

One day the sky grew dark,
It showered hard, it thundered swift,
The ant was carrying yet again,
When the wind and storm gave him a lift.

He struggled in the blow and tangle,
His leaf intact and free from mangle,
Until he was still and floating on the river,
And what he saw gave him a shiver.

The bird was large, and quite familiar
It was something he had seen before
He lifted his leaf up to the sky
“Eat this,” he cried “I don’t want to die.”
But the bird couldn’t hear him speak,
It ate him up with its beak,
There is no moral to this story,
Life can be shit, and kind of gory.

*This poem is my way of showing the African way of life. Horrible things may happen; the zebra is eaten by the lion for example but life carries on and an African always finds a sense of humour in life. That is the way an African survives.





Gogo*

She walks for miles in the hot afternoon.
She smiles to the sun and moon.
She laughs and lives until there is no more.
She is the start and the before.
She cracks roasted nuts.
Her eyes are full.
She makes the way for everyone.
She made our dreams;
Now she rests and sleeps.
She is our land, our home, our master.

VGogo means Grandmother in Ndebele, but that is what we, as children, called our great grandmother. She was the mother of us all and she rests in Gwanda, Zimbabwe after her passing in 2001.




Tokoloshe*

Beware of the Tokoloshe
If you see it
You must never name
Your children and loved ones it will claim.
Beware of the darkness in the night
For if you see it
You may lose your sight
You may disappear
And be forgotten
Or wake up in the sunrise
With your foot all rotten
Your eyes gouged out
Your children screaming
Beware my brothers and sisters, beware.

*Tokoloshe is a legend of Southern Africa. They are described in various ways but they are evil spirits who wreak havoc on African people. It is normal to place your bed on tin cans so that the tokoloshe cannot grab you from under the bed.





The Hope Of Africa

Hope is the red flower that grows overnight
After seven years of drought.

Hope is the mother’s smile of love
After rivers of starving tears.

Hope is the seed that grows
In dead soil.

Hope is the love that binds us
That we take for granted
And reminds us we are human.

Hope is the children with nothing
Playing in the rain.

Hope is the football made out of plastic bags
For a Sunday afternoon.

Hope is the family you leave behind
That remind you of home.

Hope is Africa.




A Woman of Colour*

I bear my armour like a badge.
My badge is black and white.
Like a beating drum;
It beats me through oppression.

It is difficult to find a place;
When there are specific camps.
My badge does not get me in.
It is beautiful but it brings me pain.

It is the struggle to accept what others cannot,
To bear the cross that others carry,
To put it down and leave it unanswered,
To set up your own camp and invite others in.


*This poem is my struggle as a woman of mixed race in Africa, and my view of the struggles we all face.






Hello’s and Goodbye’s*

For you the door would always be open.
For you I would have crossed the oceans.
For you I would have brought rain to deserts.
For you I would have gave half my heart to make yours whole.
For you I would have spun shadows into silk.
For you I would have tried to forget.
For you I would have penned a masterpiece.

For you there is another world to escape to
For you life will always be the same
For you I will always be frozen
For you I see the pinching sorrow in your falling tears
For you I am drowning and then I recover
For you I will always be laughing in freedom
For you I will always be living and being
For you I see all the losses slipping into the ever after

You and I are the hello and the goodbye

*African people do loss well, or rather they have a lot of loss. They are the ultimate survivor. HIV and AIDS, starvation, human rights losses, children emigrating to find a future, murder and genocide are just some of the losses Africans suffer every day. As a woman who has also experienced some of these losses this poem represents the losses of all Africans.




Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe, you have brought me as many tears
As you have brought me laughter.
You have knitted me like wool into the woman I am.
You have taught me how to wonder.

Zimbabwe, you have made me step to so many different beats
You have taught me the pain of my own faults and illusions
You have worn me like a coat of splendour
You have ripped my defences and caused me to surrender

Zimbabwe, you have peered at me so close it hurt to be me
You have danced with me naked in the sun
You have showed me off to all your auntie’s and uncle’s
You have made me walk on my own on the plains

Zimbabwe, you have scared me in the dead of night
When the nightjar sounds, and the crickets tick
You have taught me how to give my heart
And shown me as the years go by
That you Zimbabwe, will always be mine.




African Princess

“Come here my child.
Come and sit with me under the stars.
Let us make our wishes and send them far.
Let us see the kingdom of our days.
Let us speak of things forgotten.
Let us share and walk across the divide.
Let us whisper of the old stories.
Let us sleep until there is no night.
Let us cry for those who are unable.
Let us be the things we must.
Let us love until we are not able.
And learn to lose the things we must.
Let us fall and see the bottom.
Let us live there in our comfort.
Let us rise and take our places.
Let us enjoy sun shining on our faces.
Let us be embraced by our music.
Let us hand in hand standing,
See the world for its dust and wonder,
Accept how it flows into our eyes,
For you the world is open and breathing
For me it is closing and leaving
But together we are loving and being
And singing our songs no more and no less
You will rise like a true African Princess.”


Copyright © 2011 Natalie Williams

 
Natalie Williams was born in 1981 of African-Irish descent, in the newly formed country of Zimbabwe on the purple carpeted Jacaranda Lane. Life was filled in her early years with Irish fairy tales written by her grandfather, and the inspirational imaginings of the world of Narnia and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In the inspiring world of Africa, she began her journey as a writer, winning an Honours award for her poem 'The Thicket and the Musgrove' at the age of nine, and is the author of poetry collections Daydreams in Mermaid Grass and Theodore in November.

For more information please visit www.natalie-williams.com