Poem: “This Kid is No Goat” by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali

Where have All the angry young men gone? Gone to the Island of Lament for Sharpeville. Gone overseas on scholarship,

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This Kid is No Goat
Bookshelf. Image by Julia Schwab from Pixabay
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This Kid is No Goat

Where have
All the angry young men gone?
Gone to the Island of Lament for Sharpeville.
Gone overseas on scholarship,
Gone up North to milk and honeyed uhuru.
Gone to the dogs with the drink of despair.

Yesterday I met one in a bookstore:
he was foraging for food for thought
from James Baldwin, Le Roi Jones,
Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre.

He wore faded jeans and heavy sweater,
he saluted me with a ‘Hi! brother!’
He was educated in a country mission school
where he came out clutching a rosary
as an amulet against
‘Slegs vir Blankes For Whites Only.’

He enrolled at Life University
whose lecture rooms were shebeens,
hospital wards and prison cells.

He graduated cum laude
with a thesis in philosophy:
‘I can't be black and straight
in this crooked white world!
If I tell the truth
I'm detestable.
If I tell lies
I'm abominable.
If I tell nothing
I'm unpredictable.
If I smile to please
I'm nothing but an obsequious sambo

‘I have adopted jazz as my religion
with Duke Ellington, Count Basie,
Louis Armstrong as my High Priests.
No more do I go to church
where the priest has left me in the lurch.
His sermon is a withered leaf
falling from a decaying pulpit-tree
to be swept away
by violent gusts of doubt and scepticism.

‘My wife and kids can worship there:
they want to go to heaven when they die.
I don't want to go to heaven when I'm dead.
I want my heaven now,
here on earth in Houghton and Parktown;
a mansion
two cars or more
and smiling servants.
Isn't that heaven?’

Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali

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