hysteria inhaled through the nostrils,      
induces a rude awakening for the caught off guard
when breakdown  finds a host    it crawls inside a nerve
emerging as a restlessness     from deep fissures of human nature 

caressed by soft determinism   of  an impending doom
salvation seeking refuge   beneath  the breath of a whispered prayer   
fearful eyes tightly closed    seeking deliverance   
free will’s fingers stumble  across a beaded rosary   

ruthlessly severed    there are no more limits here   
only bridges left burnt     in the heat of  the moment

surging blood stream    steep gradient gushing
left lingering in the air        is a persistent urge to run. 

A Chinese Businessman 

after Jose Hernandez Diaz

in the early days of the virus, a Free State man was said to have come into contact with a Chinese  businessman. It was never disclosed where in the Free State, all that was stated on record is that an unnamed man had come into contact with a Chinese businessman. by that evening's bulletin, it was confirmed that a 32-year-old South African man had become the first case of local transmission. the report continued, stating that following their meeting, the 32-year-old fell ill with a mild fever, shortness of breath, lethargy  & a slight dry cough. earlier in the same  afternoon, the statement had  first emerged  from a health official who said  there was a case of the first local transmission in South Africa. by the late evening panic setting in, a hashtag  #whereisthechinese raging like wildfire, jokes about a mysterious Chinese businessman making their rounds , some even hiding a legitimate desire to whistleblow & point-out the businessman's whereabouts. the next morning, the department of health tweeted an apology  for an erroneous report that had been circulated. it stated that on further verification and testing, the positive case was in fact negative. within the split second it would take to lift a finger, moments before said finger touching down, the fate of one Chinese man balanced on the backspace button. inside a moment, with room large enough to doubt whether the businessman existed. suspense surrendered to a sudden guillotine-like fall, the finger came down. on the ends of tips touch & right at the very instant, with very little fan-fair, the  evasive businessman vanished into thin air.   

The Nature of Things

after Rethabile Masilo

I see soil and find skin,       
skin can be beginning & ending  in the ways of this  world,          
skin can sound like sin to some ears,  
on the nature of things,  on wisdom
the secret of why rivers runs     
why the world turns  instead of staying  still          
the necessity of why     rain must come down   
the way I  seem to resonate  with overcast clouds.  

in her wisdom 
umakhulu used to  say   ‘lomhlaba uyahlaba’  
( or the world is sharp )
& perhaps a truth  of this world  is suffering,      
one slow process of a thousand cuts    
like  the Chinese torture method of  Lingchi,       
the rain  leaving through each  opening.  
in the wilderness the grass grows wildly    
the callousness of vines seeking sunshine       
on the nature of things  &  gardens       
I lament  the grass that can no longer  grow        
after having been cut  too deeply  
   waiting  for the rains to come  

on the nature of things, the slow process of  soon
to feeling the bones harden  
annual rings of wooden oak growth
rain for other gardens      
home soil suffering from  drought.       
hands have  held waiting for so long      
chestnut palms rough, 
a sweet serenade
the way some sounds need  an even  deeper listening    
to coil around the senses
caressed, held       
& surely there must be some good  reason        
why I have chosen        
to firmly hold the soil  
& continue to feel.

About the Author:

Sihle Ntuli is a South African poet and classicist living in Durban. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Classical Civilisations and has previously lectured at the University of the Free State, where he was awarded the 2019 CTL Innovation Award for Curriculum Design and Delivery.

His poetry was shortlisted for the DALRO Poetry Prize in 2017. He most recently became the author of the poetry chapbook, Rumblin in 2020. He has had work published in South Africa and across the African continent on notable journals such as Lolwe, Down River Road & The Johannesburg Review of Books.

Featured image by by Steve Johnson from Pexels