Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Julius Chingono 1946-2011

Many thanks to Writers International-Zimbabwe and amaBooks for posting news of the sad passing of Zimbabwean poet and short story writer Julius Chingono.

Born in 1946, Chingono was the son of a farmworker, and worked for most of his life as a blaster on the mines. Made redundant in 1999, he worked intermittently as a rock-blasting contractor. WIN - Zimbabwe gives a fine description of his work: "His often deceptively simple poetry was written with compassion and clarity, feeling deeply as he did for the hardships of the poor and marginalised, while his honesty, humour and ironic eye made him a sharp and witty observer of those who abused their station through corruption and hypocrisy." His full obituary can be read here.

The finest tribute to a man is always his work.


An underpaid clerk
came back
from lunch
picking his teeth clean
with a matchstick
to impress a co-worker,
the girl at the switchboard
whose lunch was
steak and chips
Yet his meal was
a half-hour long nap
and half a litre of water
from a tap
in the park.


His eyes are see-through.
Through them I see
a yawning empty bread bin
a fridge stands
by its chilling emptiness
a stove, cold,
sits huddled in a corner
finds nothing to warm up
for mice swept the pantry
before seeking refuge
in refuse pits
in the neighbourhood.
Cockroaches left jackets
on hangers of webs
bills are forming
a small mound
on a formica table.

Yet - whenever I ask
How he is doing
he replies:
'Fine. And you?'

For many more examples, look here, and if you want to hear the man himself, reading his work, please listen here.

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