Visions of Corona by Mphuthumi Ntabeni

Mphuthumi Ntabeni contributes to various national and international publications. He has worked with the Rhodes University Drama department and has written plays that were featured at the National Arts Festival. He has had short stories published in magazines and historical journals. Ntabeni was also one of six writers from the African continent included in the collection of short stories, Africa Fresh! New Voices From The First Continent. His debut novel, The Broken River Tent, was published by BlackBird Books in 2018.

Visions of Corona

[To be read with Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna and Rodriguez’s Crucify Your Mind on loop]

They’re sending us foreboding missiles from the ancient land of the Romans
We capture news, as an anodyne forms of voyeurism
About Italy, Spain and the seat of Babylon on the banks of Hudson River
We praise the hypocrisy of their privilege that affords them privacy in dying
For we know, were it in Africa their bodies would’ve been strewn for all to be seeing
Openly displayed to satisfy the pornography of poverty narrative
For once the virus rots the proverbial fish from the head
The death haunted queen of England coughs
The prince of England corrodes
Their Prime Minister explodes
While the land of Caledonia and Gaelic kingdoms secedes
Someone on the internet holds a handful of hail telling us it’s shaped like Corona
It is literally hailing spikes of Corona in Middleburg of the Karoo
Sounds murmur in the opposite house, echoes of neighbours in restless mood
Eventually he warms up his braai fire and temper, the smoke chokes my hood
Soon the screams of his wife are heard while you’re in the room
We all make anonymous calls to the police who come chat him up to calm the mood
The retired of their own they tell to watch the nosy neighbours of the hood
They give him a bear hug after brandy and coke brawls while yours fume in the room
In this room the mice race on the ceiling course
The cosmopolitan music plays Zonke’s Jik’Izinto
Bacchus inspired laughter spills out of you neighbour’s balcony, on the other side
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off, but Corona, her spikes so inspired
And these visions of Corona, conquer our superficialities
The road, rich with possibilities, stretches before you
Asking if its humanity or Late Capitalism that must die
Luminous and isolated the stats come pouring
The Christian pastor parliamentarian has infected leading politicians
The Rhona has now gone beyond the Southern elite belt
Reaching behind the mountain curtain to the stomach of the city
Where the majority live lives of oppressive desperation and permanent confinement
Fixed out of time in time the table mountain smokes her pipe
Old lady Hoerikwaggo talks of times when ships brought bubonic plague as you snipe
When mice of Europe infested the sea, the florid frills of her dress
When black soldiers, not in charge of their destiny,
Brought Black Death from Occidental fighting enclaves
To the peripheries of their rural homes
There’s now everywhere a haphazard accumulation of fake injury
Everyone regards themselves as victims and everyone is to blame
Pain, as an emotional modulation of our boredom, sanitises our shame
Boredom is the sendup of the pain of our disconnected lives all the same
Amplified by social distancing and lockdown suffocations that pains
Our military supplement their boredom with a cruel game
Against misinformed somnambulist citizenry of shame
While the president is stuck up on the loop
He tries to talk but there’s really nothing to hook
Just Corona, and its dubious efficacy lining us up in rows like ducks
Some see apotheosis, wondering if Noah’s Ark has been spotted on the docks
Some say is the dying kicks in the desolation room of
Late Capitalism, Second Coming, End of the World or doom
You can take any pick that fancies your superstitious gloom
Somehow even the elites are now burning their passports of doom
For now travel is a descent into Dante’s sixth level of hell of doom
No one is boasting of recently been in the Occident hood
And yoga and meditation no longer tames their sublimated anxieties
So they’re here with us in the internet republic of equality
Bored from binging on Netflix and Apple+ TV
Rhona has demolished the gaping gap in the great vault of calendar years
Cassandras, false prophets and quacks no longer know what time it is in heaven
But there’s really nothing, no one to blame
But Corona, remaking life and death to bring the future into game
Leaping us into the future through our resurrected past
Restoring meaning and purpose into our collective lives
Telling us that the cosmos has nothing to be repentant of
When we violate her laws for balance she withdraws our right to life
Gradually, she unleashes weapons on her disposal to protect the cosmic life
Her future must be with or without us
She eliminates all threats to it, which in our era have a human face
Not the gaping wounds of inequality is cosmic fault
But the rot in human enterprise turned vampiric
And Madonna has showed in a bubble bath
Exposing the vacuousness of celebrities
And the blind shame of their wages of fame
To expose the lies of being in this together while public health access is unequal
But there’s really nothing and no one to blame
But the grammar of the times, and Corona so entwined
Loneliness, the scientists say, is grief distended
For we’re made for interpersonal intimacy
Now we must depend on the internet, whine on social media
Pour our bile on Twitter while the Orange Man gloats of his popularity
Starry eyed, stir crazy and hyper-vigilant we stand on our balconies
Breathing fast with racing hearts and high blood pressures we can’t sleep
Lonely-together-apart, singing-smoking-quaffing and expecting the worse
In floating moods of uncertainty, dread, trembling and comic futility
With the fear of total destruction in our collective psyche
All this make it precise and so clear, that Corona is here
Strong and mobile, like a bullet train, she demolishes our false values
Ghosts of her forefathers howl in the history passages of all the plagues
Where these visions, of Corona, have taken their place
Purblind and scandalous the club of our national billionaires now act
Reigning their voracious appetites of greed
They brag about the bread crumbs
They brush for the public bread seed
After all, the Vampiric Capitalism needs its somnambulist alive to suck their blood
There’s no money making on the depopulated national mall
Their sins of commission sure have a lot of gall to be useless and all
Name me someone who’s not a parasite and I’ll say a prayer for them
The desolation row has reached the pews
The Pope said Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) blessings in sage kindness
To the haunting eerie silence of empty Vatican Square
The animals have come down from their exiles
To watch the humans behind the windows of their home zoos
The Welsh goats, the dolphins of Venice and the hippos of Africa
Zajik’ izinto–Things have turned
All of a sudden the secular eschatology is not enough, was never enough
Our pastors, our politicians, and the rest of crackpot celebrities are stunned
All who usually comment from the thinness of cultural and intellectual grasp choke
Corona has closed all the gaps of horizontal vacuousness
And their fake wisdom purchased on the cheap
And opened only the vertical path for burrowing thinkers
For poets, philosophers, theologians, scientists and literary writers
They’re again the ones who now shape the narrative of our human consciousness
Long may these visions of Corona last
Even when she surrenders to human ingenuity, as surely she must like her ancestors
Was it a salesman or soothsayer
That made you pay the cost
That assumes condescending position
That makes you prostitute your loss
Were you tempted by your fears
That made you spread your tears
Were you tortured by your guilt
That made you tilt your built
That made you turn vicarious
That made you Jonas Salk
And you claim, you’ve got vaccine going
You need to test first on Africans
Well, we’ve seen your greed showing
As the tears roll down your cheeks
Soon you know we’ll heal you
And we’ll never look behind
For we were born for purpose
That crucify your minds
So come convince our leaders
As you’ve down here before
For you know they’ve feet of clay
Giving substance to your greed
Giving substance to your feed
But you know we’ve got something unique
Something you’ll never get
And you assume, you’ve got something to offer
Secret shinning and new
But how much of this is just colonial repetition
That you’ve not whispered in history too
Aninyi phofu?
Thina asiphelelanga
Kushota uCredo
uVusamazulu akekho
As’ phelelanga!
[Are you shitting us?
We’re not complete
We’re missing Credo
He’s gone to wake the heavens
We’re not complete]

Categories South Africa

Tags Mphuthumi Ntabeni Poetry

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