Magic 50 of COVID-19 Poems by Sandile Ngidi and Yuri Kageyama

Magic 50 of COVID-19 Poems by Sandile Ngidi and Yuri Kageyama (From Aug. 31, 2020 ~April 5, 2021. All rights reserved by the artists.)

1 (S)

Poetry kins us to these basal stems.

Moisture is life.

Gardens petals fresh & resilient.

Mother breathes songs of roots strong.

Words curate a healthy leaf mass, fruits defying leaf scorch defining these heavy seasons.

Plumes as words dancing in the winds.

2 (Y)

Dragonflies flutter by the slowly swelling river.

Moisture is life.

Blue-green of their wings play in the light.

Mother cries songs of currents deep.   

Leaves of Grass bend soft with the seasons, shining dew recalling these tears of birth.

Plumes as words dancing in the winds.

3 (S)

Far in the somewhere of dazzling seas,

nothing stops the seasons of fruitful friendships.

Dancing field to field feeding the imagination,

it’s the spring of delights, radished words.

Grass gesturing towards well-shaped flower leaves, moistured mosaics of words.

Life.

4 (Y)

Plumes as words dancing in the winds,

Tiny sparrows warble, not in fun but fear,

Scattering like debris, dirt, weeds and words,

Over oceans and deserts, swamps and streams,

The now of Dreams connect the All of history, the eternity of Forgotten nightmares.

Yes, Life.    

5 (S)

Across seas the rooster is red,

Crowing in the weeds.

Greek sea edge sinking Black lives.

The wind is nightmarish.

In drying Eldorado Park, slain Nathaniel Julies is rising.

Fresh gardens strut their stuff,

A poetry skyline in full sun,

greening the eversick landscape. Life.

6 (Y)

Poetry whispers in tanka and haiku,

Across oceans, red, blue, yellow and black,

Repeating of pain, repeating of life,

Repeating of love? Repeating,

Iwao Hakamada just smiles and believes

In God.       

7 (S)

After the soft rains,

Blooms fresh.

My epistle is no flower.

Naked, Black and pregnant,

Woman shot beast-like on a darkened Mozambique road –

Drowning soldier-savagery

Shamed seasons.

Lizalis’idinga lakho,

God of Black women now rise,

in tanka-maskandi cries.

Poppies.

8 (Y)

She is duped and gets easily used;

She is defiant and easily explodes;

She is vain, obsessed with appearance;

She let herself go, looks fat and shabby;

She is too quiet and can’t speak up;  

She is psychotic and can’t shut up;

She is all these things, all at once,

Deranged.

9 (s)

Would you dance naked on your veranda

seeing madigras brass band

mad boots on grass,

killing your soul’s shongololo?

Beyond the gleam of your silverware, the sun still shines.

Shun the sun if drunk in the polemic of your vomit.

The palm tree is tall still,

yet peaceful.

10 (Y)

Her robe translucent like briny waves

An ancient pagoda zooming to a giant moon

She will never come back

To an earth that’s unjust, unequal, unfree;  

She will never look back

At those who have sought to capture her

Her eternal dance

Gagaku

11 (S)

We hello each other,

a morning ritual.

He walks into the dew, 

whistling with the ancestors.

Mapholoba, a shepherd breathing poverty.

This dark mist, common as whites walking their dogs.

Seeing them pee with glee.

Peace.

His dogged legs a plea.

Ulaka lwabaphansi.

12 (Y)

Four an unlucky number,

sounding the same

as the word for “death,”

the 442 has two fours

and a two,

any even number unlucky,

divisible,

inevitable separation coming,

and Go For Broke they did,

from desert Camps,

to win what they never had,

the right to be American,

not an enemy.

13 (S)

Casting a warm eye on this land

my line to kiss her forehead

give her gladness sandwiches

water my mother’s spinach

add black pepper to the seasons

good taste into the bowl

a poetry pot firing the broil

simmering hope

the slow dawn of a brighter day.

14 (Y)

Taking a lazy walk next to this river

the gulls kiss the tips of the water

children laugh in floppy hats

I remember my father’s beatings

my mother’s Edamame

cooked in Salt, served with cold beer

a poetry pot firing the broil

simmering hope

the slow dawn of a brighter day.

15 (S)

Stratus clouds in the skies

Wishing blue skies smiled

Chuckled like Louis Armstrong

The air was friendly

Night undaunting

Unbanning lazy solitude strolls

Poets oets perching in trees

Chickening every silly sunset

Dazzled by darkness

Her seductive light.

16 (Y)

Skyscraper windows

Unblinking light

Dot the aging skies of night

With stories each window tells

That age-old face of every city,

Tokyo, LA, Johannesburg,

Breathing suicidal loneliness

With violence smoothed only by time

His seductive weeps

Await that trickle of dawn  

17 (S)

after a long trip is a place

where one returns

changes into fresh clothes

puts the heavy load down

drinks cold water

eats porridge and amasi

while the dog licks wounds back to health

where suicidal fantasies die

hopelessly lacking any poetic imagination.

18 (Y)

sighs of exhaustion breathe through

the night, screams of wind choked silent,

kissing pleats on rain-filled waters,

river to river, sea to sea, blood to blood,

is it dawn somewhere else?

do the birds care enough to remember

the messages from that somewhere else?

19 (S)

He says hi

inkabi back from jail

straw grass world

exhaustion

brute storms

leopard lonesome

blood-heavy yoke

motherless calf

can’t be licked for first milk.

He’s a local

no hate blues.

Do I offer my hand

to the killer-ox

talk weather

disgust Bushiri?

20 (S)

Body seducing sleep

Swinging on her axis

Tell the night be tight.

Behind the sun sleep is light.

In dreams lovers kiss the ground in flight

Saliva no dread on Covid lane.

Children dance the morning dew into song.

Laughter.

Phezu komkhono!

Bujitsu

21(Y)

That needed daily fix of kimchee,

Granpa’s growling snores

Rattles shoji screens,

Like gently shaking maracas:  

Where miso soup cooking,

And cooking and cooking

Wafts through

The peppermint morning air.

22 (Y)

Memories repeat

Even in dementia eyes:

A ring that sparkles,

Gem of yellow,

Rainbow and diamond,    

Promising a love eternal,

Fool-proof, never betrayal,

Like the immeasurable,

Unfailing Worth

Of Truth and

Freedom.

23 (S)

In a deadly pandemic

blackened skies

hellish eyes

greed so pathetic

so trump-manic

muzzled jingle bells

Wakashio in Mauritius

shits oil

kills marine life

kills food

kills kanji

even after Fukushima

drills invade the Okavango

kill life

kill laughter

Pula.

24 (Y)

Death nudges closer

The pandemic world we share,

Skin cracked of disinfectant,

Sweat dripping on masks,

Prayer and hope,  

Remembering music:

Winston Monwabisi “Mankunku” Ngozi

25 (S)

Pain pierces the heart like an assassin’s knife.

See the restless sea.

Shingled memories, the coffee blues.

Rumours of Christmas in the warming moist air.

Humming with the moon, its tears.

Pleading for the lost lotus flower seeds.

Impepho.

26 (Y)

one pandemic year

blurs

into the next,

those who hate

must hate

blinded to truth and fact

but we recognize

more than ever

what is important,

and who

27 (S)

America, poop fools climb walls in tantrums.

Haters copiously eat garlic.

Whiteness is no guesswork.

Hard stools on TV.

For COVID-19 deaths to be sweet & swift.

Trumps.

In my hood, the owl headlines death.

A cry for a strong midrip.

Palms.

28 (S)

The stubborn heaviness in our shoulders.

The bloodshot eyes, now we know,

our lives are being irrevocably torn apart.

Those who are ill, dying and dead, are familiar names.

Family.

Friends.

Beloved ones.

Death is no longer a metaphor.

The nightmare. The nightmare.

The nightmare.

29 (S)

Since we are already here.

Poetry of faith at the full.

Kindly keep these sandwiches, too.

To be shared at the golden hour

That poets dream of,

Even as it madly thunders.

30 (Y)

Our poem will end

When we overcome;

We will celebrate

For once,

An end

As we always do

With beginnings

31 (Y)

Laugh, belittle, ridicule,

Call me naive

Over-blown

Narcissistic,

Easily duped,  

Those names,

Whatever is up

Entitled sleeves,

To silence stereotype enslave.

32 (S)

The dread of your dying wick.

A single lung blighting all joy.

Memories of your dead mother.

Your pus-filled body.

A cry for green stones of home. Hot springs.

Jail is sad.

Prisoners die at this cursed hour.

Now on my kneeling mat, milling the moon.

33 (S)

At the local dumpsite, I flinch

improvise a mind-soul spin.

Kids playing atop the site,

happy-hip outdoor crib with a view.

Good times rolling like Kamala Harris,

dogs fighting over smelly nappies.

Kids running away, stained condoms

popping up.

They are doing it.

34 (Y)

it used to be simple

getting on a plane

breathing without a mask

touching a doorknob

and not being afraid

it used to be simple

laughing on an elevator

just going out

hugging someone

you love

35 (S)

Ziyagiya ziqethuke.

Mqombothi plastic cups.

Lives dangling on the lion’s jaws.

Ease the storm beloved ancestors.

We miss the magic of hugging the clay pot.

The odd belch.

The tickling cold stir on lips.

The Khongisa spirit.

Songs against thunder and disease.

Rain.

(Section 35 was written by Sandile Ngidi on the day of the death of legendary South African vocalist, and his friend, Sibongile Khumalo, evoking the spirit of one her great songs, a prayer to the gods of Africa. Let us mourn in prayer this collective loss as we face a world torn by the pandemic.)

36 (Y)

Shivers of monster icebergs

Fevers of raging forest fires

Fuzzy spikes running amok

Vessels organs flesh and muscle

Dropping phlegm immunity bombs

More virus more virus more virus

Tentacles piercing nails red-blue

Hoping to wipe out Humanity

Weighing who gets to live

Which rich nations get vaccines first

37 (S)

The vaccine arrives in the rain,

I wave on TV,

frown lines of relief.

Puppy-happy, playing fetch

The bride is here, for

migrants too.

Waves crash onto shore,

a swash of stars

arresting the frozen hours.

Maize seedlings ready, hands to earth.

Fresh starts.

38 (Y)

Yurikamome float like lotus

Heaven on earth

This river of fruit and birth,

Tender Flowers,

A moment in this pandemic Hell

That enslaves, rapes, steals,

Infections of greed and envy

39 (S)

Humming leaves giving rhythm to the reticent day.

Fruits.

Mapholoba off to his cattle post.

Our morning ritual in flight.

Salutes to sunrise.

Laughter shared like bread.

A mbhubhudlo bond.

Songs.

The heaven of village handshakes.

Palm leaves.

40 (Y)

Hot pink buds are shaking dew,

Airplanes roar over clouds of spring  

And the weeping of sirens,

Piercing the city smog;

We wonder if it’s COVID-19

Or some other emergency;  

We pray for anshin anzen,

Safe and secure,

As elusive as those broken promises.   

41 (S)

Sibiya’s laughs are boiled maize kernels we throw in the air,

Right into our mouths.

Sweet rain drops.

In the wasp-killing sun, we breathe dreams into the soil,

Muting the weeping sirens.

The soil’s ulnar verse spreads and breaks like seawaves.

We are silk songs.

42 (Y)

We wake up today to the Earth shuddering,

Rumbling in fear of human evil,

Magnitude 7.3 almost midnight.  

We wake up today to water levels sinking

In reactors that sank 10 years ago

Meltdowns in Fukushima, 

Half-cracked containers spewing,

No one gets close without dying;     

Remembering human greed,

Evacuating in fear of radioactive imperfection.

43 (S)

You ntanga yethu, David Sibisi.

Walking talking with stoic grace.

Broomcorn strong.

Smile bristles giving the day her delayed radiance.

Some milk cows perished in the recent hellish rains.

But you braving the forest,

giving the village her health.

Brooms.            

44 (S)

It’s a year since that freezing wind struck,

left its bloodied knife on the floor.

The winding path of pain, indefinite tracks on a hill.

The dead can’t smell the flowers, and play with their dogs anymore.

Yet memory drapes each day with protean seeds.     

45 (Y)

Smell the soy sauce cooking

See the squints stab desert skies

Hear the heartbeat taiko vibration

Feel the texture of kimono silk

Taste the ocean sashimi brine

So Simple: Has it been a year?

We are alive we mourn filled with love

Can you remember how that love made you afraid?

46 (S)

Empty lands,

where brutal spiderworlds

silence women.

In the name of tradition,

the kikuyu loses her green heart.

Tribesmen betray justice.

Blowing their noses at a woman,

as she cries for justice.

When her speech is chilli hot,

her eyes a stubborn flame.

47 (Y)

Vagina warm and snug,

Dark and tight Slant Eyes,

Shot at a Massage Spa;

Skin as smooth as China Silk,

Straight Black Hair a Tightrope,

Shot at a Massage Spa;

Serve your addiction

But Not racially motivated,

Shot at a Massage Spa;

He just had a bad day,

The women are dead.

48 (S)

Sunny days are darkening at load-shedding speed.

Seasons of foul stench.

Skunks squealing with careless glee.

Children too happy to play outside.

Far from the smell of the political millipede.

To wink at the transient sunrise.

Holding on to its warm scarlet scarf.

49 (Y)

Oblivious to the pandemic,

Sakura buds fatten,

Burst in benevolent explosions,

Millions of screams

Crying out to Stop Hate, 

Pink pompoms spilling Pink Periods

On a timeless Manuscript

Of pavement and dirt.   

50 (S)

Bright skies and the sea full of grace, heroic balsamic kisses.

Hugh Masekela’s Homeric bloom.

Bliss.

It’s the season of the kindest sunlight.

Petunias strutting their lot in lilac, red –

And Hughey’s enduring love petals.

Hip grazing in the April grass.

“The canvas is big. Gets beautiful with every brush stroke. What matters to me is the possibility of the festival. We are still afloat.” _ SANDILE NGIDI


“I must answer to my brother poet’s challenge and spirit, our words weaving together as family, across oceans, skies and continents.” _ YURI KAGEYAMA

The River _ a poem in the spirit of Hart Crane _ by Yuri Kageyama

The River with effects by Christopher Robert

The River with effects by Christopher Nolan

THE RIVER
_ a poem in the spirit of Hart Crane _ by Yuri Kageyama

The River

Katsushika Hokusai’s hawks
Still eye this Sumida River
Crying their fue whistles
Echoing music on scuttling boats,
Carrying workers, travelers, modern-day geisha _
Some rickety, faded lanterns dangling,
Other ships are futuristic tubes of glass;
The torrents are dark with the wind,
Torn dreams of star-crossed lovers
Jumping tied by cloth as one
From the Kachidoki Bridge
No longer a draw-bridge, separating at the center,
The winding waves glisten in tips of white
Like the wings of seagulls that flutter
Only during the fall and winter seasons,

The River

In the rain, darting sideways sumi strokes,
Tiny people scamper across the landscape
The O-Edo “salarymen” and the “office lady” O-Ls
Faceless, hustling proletarian lives
Clasping sheer convenience-store umbrellas
Not the woven straw hats of the past
Tokyo Tower to the left
Sky Tree to the right
Stirring distant eternal visions,
Swimming in the Seine,
Sumida’s Sister River,
And Van Gogh’s deranged mind,
Sashaying to the ocean and the connecting skies,
Where the sun sets again,
Bleeding purple among wispy twisted clouds;
And the River churns,
Remembering glory,
Knowing sin
Through an anonymous city of lights

The River

(II)
The BIRDS

Kabuki’s answer to the Pelican
The Flamingo, the Albatross,
The Heron swoops through the sky
Perches so perfectly on a pine _
Princess in mirrored waters;

The humble fish-gulping Cormorant
Dives in muddy waters,
Spreads battered wings to dry,
In flight, freed from slavery _
Transforms, a gliding Black Swan;

The Sparrow plays, chirping staccatos,
Small furs of speckled brownness,
They play, always searching
Like a lost forlorn child _
Unchanged from Issa’s poems.

(III)
SIGNS OF LIFE _ A Poem and Not a List

lantern

Azure-winged Magpie
Bobbling Lanterns
Giggling Motorboats
Baby Crabs, some are still
Worms on the pavement, mostly still
Fish are jumping, really
But Seagulls mew like Cats
And Monkeys slide on Dagwood Trees;
Smell of Tsukudani, dead Rodents,
Where Basho began his Journeys _
If We can feel the Words,
A List turns
Into A Poem:
Zinnia Elegans Profusion
Zinging Cicada
Couples in Yukata
Cotton Clouds
After the Storm

boat

(IV)
HANABI (fireworks)

Fireworks at Ryogoku by Utagawa Hiroshige

Fireworks at Ryogoku by Utagawa Hiroshige

Hiroshige had the idea
Roses, wine glasses, mandalas
Exploding big in the hot dark
Psychedelic flowers blooming
Over milling crowds of evil
Drunken laughter
Exclamations
Aspirations of Smallness:
I whisper to my blind friend:
“It’s lovely like truth,
Like forever.”
Fragile glows bleed with neon
Hanging low only for a moment
Hiroshige had the idea

Sumida River fireworks

Sumida River fireworks

(V)
POETIC MOMENTS

Let me create them
Poetic moments
A Ditch is a River
Poetic moments
The River is Vision
Poetic moments
Lost forever found
Poetic moments
Everywhere
Poetic moments
Nowhere
Poetic moments
Let me create them
Poetic moments
May I stay pure
So I don’t miss them.

SUMIDAGAWA

riveragain2

隅田川
どぶかかわかは
浮世ビジョン

Sumida River
Whether a ditch or river
Ukiyo Vision

FAREWELL TO TSUKIJI

The River

their fangs shimmer
in the darkest of nights
in multitudes
like starving soldiers
they make their run
across downtown
fur upon fur
covering the cement,
nails scratching,
blocking the office lights,
monstrous mice mewing,
looking for the fish
that is suddenly gone,
as they once looked for
the Pied Piper of Hamlin,
the rats of Tsukiji
are moving,
not to Toyosu, where
the ground is poison
but into rich people’s homes
to eat their steaks, greed and children;
the rats blink
with tiny golden
unfeeling eyes,
diamonds of stench,
in time
with the stars
above

tsukiji night

THE RETURN OF THE YURIKAMOME

yurikamome

yurikamome

I waited all summer
For your return
Flutters of petal
Above the water
Buddha’s wafting lily pads
Your squawks swim the salty breeze
Circling, swooping, dancing,
They say birds vanish before an earthquake,
A hurricane, an apocalypse;
It matters not you don’t remember me
Your playful swoops
Silence screams of hate
Your presence is comfort
In this Atomic Age
You are back:
“I will not cry
Except in love” _
I wrote those lines
When I was very young,
And they are still true
As I die,
You are back

yurikamome

asagao

the river oct 2018

the river with boats

HAIKU FOR SAGIMUSUME _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Heron in a Tokyo Park

Heron in a Tokyo Park

HAIKU FOR SAGIMUSUME
A poem by Yuri Kageyama

Dance from white to red
A ghostly bride mirrored in snow
Killed by love, she still lives

I saw Kikunosuke perform the Kabuki dance “Heron Maiden.”
I’ve seen the dance by Tamasaburo many times, but this version was special, perhaps because his subdued though utterly elegant interpretation so perfectly highlighted the beauty of the story and the music, or perhaps just because a garden near where I live, Hamarikyu, has herons.
Now, I know they are so still, perched on a rock with their crooked necks, as though they know but don’t care they are forming a perfect picture for an artist, so intensely focused, ruthless in their silence and stillness.
What a bird it is _ and what an image, forlorn and fantastic at once, to depict the love of a Japanese woman.
It is not necessary to have seen herons every day or be a Japanese woman to appreciate this gorgeous theater piece.
But it helps.
And I thank the god of poetry for giving me the gift that allows me to witness how this great Japanese dance and the humble dignity of the heron can transcend the finitude and pettiness of society.

Heron in a Tokyo Garden.

Heron in a Tokyo Garden.

A Crow’s Request _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

crows
Crows by Hokusai

A Crow’s Request
_ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

We get a bum rap.
An utterly horrendous,
Misrepresentative rep;
They adore the others,
The herons, wagtails and ducks,
Even cooing pigeons
Calling them doves,
Symbols of peace,
But us _ we’re evil
Laden with germs
They’re setting traps
To kill us
To exterminate us
Though we’ve lived in the park
Longer than them
Minding our business
Raising our children
No different from anyone else

You have your nest
Of glass and steel
We have our nest
Up in the trees
Though unlike you,
We’re virtuous
We mate for life:
Why you see us flying
In twosomes
Crooked hearts in the sky
We bathe in mere puddles of water
We eat what we find
In the streets, on the ground;
True, we don’t chirp or twitter
And instead make scary
Cawing noises
We’re just communicating.
No different from anyone else.

We’re depicted scrounging garbage
Hanging out with witches
That’s just a stereotype
Concocted by a hostile media;
When we flock in the hundreds
Swarming in a dark cloud
Perch like a thousand commas
We evoke Hitchcock’s “Birds;”
But we inspired Hokusai, “Heckle and Jeckle,”
And the Japanese soccer team;
There’s a song about us crying:
“Kawaiiii, kawaiiii …”
Van Gogh drew us flapping in a field
Like a deathly holy ghost;
We collect shiny things
Like glass and buttons
Bringing them to children
To make them smile.