Events | Johannesburg

Word Art at 151 | Young voices : Moses Mtileni

Moses Mtileni was born at Nkuri-Tomu village in Limpopo. He is the author of U ya va Rungula (poetry) and Mpimavayeni (novella). He curated an anthology of Xitsonga poetry by ten young poets, Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula. He has been longlisted for the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award thrice.  His short stories and poems have appeared in local and international journals and anthologies (most recently Illuminations and Asymptote). He has translated Ng?g? wa Thiong’os short story, The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright (published in Jalada Translation Issue 01) Peter Horn’s selected poems into Xitsonga. He writes in both Xitsonga and English.

Kwandonga ziyaduma – Place of rumbling wallssession-4-young-voices-moses-metileni-1

(fragments- of paths and memories)


rumbling walls


they rumble no more, these walls

rumours of gold, ghosts of magayisa

and meat that never finishes

they rumble no more, these walls




those that flocked to the city

when the fields were castrated


wrestled and slaughtered

that beast called ‘influx control’

declared everywhere home


the red ants


the court said the building

was too old to carry our bodies

unfit for our breaths

red ants confiscated

mattresses pots

broken stoves

threw them ten floors

down onto the streets


children screaming

the old the sick

no time for goodbyes

amidst the wrestling


the red ants are not ants

they are human beings reduced

to machines that bulldoze

those whose plight they share

for a meal


out of buildings too old

to carry our bodies

lumping us with pots

broken people broken stoves

the cold thickness of winter




red eyes

frowzy hair

dry lips

a black rubbish bag at hand

a small cardboard piece

against his chest

bold black letters:

i keep this corner spot free

pointing at the letters and the bag

approaches a black sedan

whose driver winds up the window

and looks away


night, orlando east


when the raindrops

spattering against sheets of zinc

eat away at the soil below the wood

foundation to the mukhukhu

dig a donga into its inside

sinking the mattress and blankets

rousing the one negotiating sleep

a man needs a spade

to fight the torrent


via village road


charcoal blackened

next to the M2 highway

barefoot on the grass

barefoot on broken glass

he pauses to urinate

spits before moving on

utterly naked


through the windows

in a taxi to work

some look at his face

others at his penis

others his dreadlocks

drifting in the cold winds


night, tshiawelo


through the subsiding flame

of a paraffin lamp

full blast music

at the main house

a shebeen

and a couple having sex

at the corner outside your door

it makes sense to read

zoning schemes &

township ordinances

the communist manifesto

and steven bantu biko