“Big City” by Sibusiso Ernest Masilela

Salute to you big brother Johannesburg
Our inner-city of cosmic trait and talent
Ruling hemispheres with power and aplomb
Peppering the roots that grow pride or ambition
You were born from a gallant Batswana tribe
Light in complexion with rich political history
Bred by my grandfather’s endless sweat and tears
That sowed the country’s first official flee market
You are Canaan to the people of the South
Drawing attention from even our neighbours’ eye
Africa’s safe haven of dreams and fortune
Giving hope to all who wish to earn a name
You enfold invincible rivers that cleanse misfortune
And your skies televise firecrackers of fame
You raised pebbles from dust to colossal heights
And enchanted the world with your blinding lights
You are sweet-motherland’s centerpiece of gold
That kept solemn views and left critics speechless
Your town plan scorched under our siblings’ feet
Kept our cousins howling and hawking every street
Your windows mirror the face of a modern man
Inviting nomads so they could be lost in your atlas
Following the rhythm from your covert train tracks
Tap dancing to your song, all in pursuit of success
Brother Johannesburg you are the blood of my ancestry
My late father’s wise and adopted son
Your wings shelter the homeless and all broken souls
Turning every tear into pasture or seeds of gold
You were only married to our precious economy
Gave birth to mansions, townships and squatter-camps
Taught us refuge in hostels and hard labor, mining in the reef
Governed our elites with religion and Bantu education

Big brother Johannesburg a man with colonial vision
You have destroyed unity, betrothed to the art of deception
Hypnotized my insular people with your idealist inception
Broadcasted sham headlines to mislead our perception
You are the captives’ city that hardly sleeps
Fulfilled your mission by keeping our relatives sunken deep
Our families weep for children in pavements or lost in your caves
Hidden at the bottom of your pit living as destitute or wild slaves
You kept our scholars detribalized colonized by theses from Oxford
Watched our elders abandon culture and sold tradition for graves
You gave society illusions and fed my mother the teenager’s pill
Condoned vibrancy, destroyed morality, keeping us captivated by nude appeal
You stole pillars from the rural and left my nephews rashes that won’t heal
And you spilt the antidote that cure fungi and germs of poverty
You erased my surname and signed yours on every intellectual property
Left my soul bitter and my heart vain so my existence would not feel real
You vowed to fulfill fantasies and seal empty spaces to shield our lack of basic skills
Became treasury to piling pressure and insomnia and left our leaders overdosed on stress pills
Dearly beloved brother look what you’ve done, now tell me
how do you feel?

Sibusiso Ernest Masilela is a 34-year-old poet born in a town called Emalahleni in Mpumalanga. He believes that words bring more light to humanity, and literature has the power to shape the mind, to gain exposure… that is the experience.

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