Poetry

Umxhelo wokugqibela | The Last Breath (A poem for Philela) #RIPPhilela

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Written by Nozipho Madlala translated by Akha Tutu

Philela Gilwa(wearing black t-shirt) addressing his comrades at Lingelethu Police Station after Mthunzi Ras Moziah had been murdered (Pic: Sakhikhaya Dlala)

Umxhelo wokugqibela uyazivala iingcango zobomi

Ngokuphanyaza kweliso inamhlanje ibalizolo.

Zijike iintsuku zethu zibe zezokugqibela.

 

Ukuba kuyenzeka ukuba ndilibale ukuphila,

Ungathi ngokunyhwalaza wenze ngathi bendikho.

Bambelela kwinyaniso endikunike yona

uze ume nxamnye neengxelo ezinganikisi mdla ngobomi bam.

 

Xa igama lam kwiincwadi zembali licinywa, likhusele.

Maze ixesha lingaze likukhohlise ukuba andisekho.

“Salani kakuhle!” asingomazwi am okugqibela lawo.

 

Amaphupha am ayakuba phakathi kwenu,

ivumba lam libe sezingqengqelweni zenu,

yona inzondelelo yam iya kunikhumbuza ukuba igama lam

lalibhalwe ngoonobumba bovuyo, ukuzola neenkxwaleko.

 

Ukuba kuyenzeka ndingabisanakho ukuphila,

amaphupha am makaziwe lihlabathi.

Ngoku ndithabath’ uhambo olungaziwayo

ilixesha kuphela into exabisekilyo

endinqwena ukuhambanayo.

 

Ukufa kuphumelele.

Oko sikuko noko besinqwena ukuba kuko kutshabalele.

Kungoku nje kugqityiwe,

Nam ndithe cwaka.

Ubomi buhluthwe ngumxhelo wokugqibela.

 

 

English Translation 




The Last Breath

 

The last breath closes a lifetime

In an instant present becomes past

And these moments become our last

 

If I ever forgot to be

Never pretend that I was

Hold the truth that I gave you

Against the half-hearted memoirs

And stand

 

Stand up for me when my memory

Becomes blurred

Don’t let time convince you that I am gone

Goodbye was never

my last word

 

My dreams shall remain on your walls

And my scent

on your pillows

My zeal shall remind you

that my life was painted

in letters stained by

Joys, stillness

and sorrows

 

And if I ever forgot to live

Tell the world that my dreams

Outlived me

I know nothing as I walk

Into unknown spaces

Where time is the only treasure

I wish to carry with me

 

But it’s over and I am done

A lifetime blown away by a single breath

The unclaimed victory of death

Over all that we are

And all that we hope to become

—————————————————————–
Philela Gilwa was stabbed on Saturday the 15th of July 2017 in Town 2 (Khayelitsha), close to the land occupation site and died on arrival at Khayelitsha Day Hospital. He had been suspended for 9 months at the University of Free State (UFS) for Fees Must Fall related activities. He then sought refuge at Kilombo Village in Makhaya and involved himself with the biggest land occupation in Cape Town in recent years.

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