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“Poverty does not know what shame is” – read two excerpts from Lesego Rampolokeng’s third novel, Bird-Monk Seding

This place is called SEDING, short for Leseding, place of light. Quite ironic given the darkness throbbing at its core and spilling out bubbling in the blackest rage when least expected. Surrounded by farmland in all directions, it is a settlement of about 700 households crammed in tiny structures. Average 7 souls per hovel. It used to be made up of ramshackle corrugated iron shacks that seemed tossed down regardless of aesthetics. Then the new administration’s housing programme kicked in.

Man in the bush in quest of Bosman’s ghost. Finding AWB rabidity. Tranquility so deep it kills. Hate-hounds. Beneath the surface quiet, such racist rotten-heartedness. & children dying. Starvation abounds. Raw sewage in the water supply. Crap in the taps. Skin matters. Ancient white beards sexing black teens for tins, food exchange. The soul’s impoverishment. The starved get their humanity halved. And weekends of sex-tourism. Alcoholic stares everywhere. Deep fear too.

Read two excerpts from Lesego Rampolokeng’s third novel, Bird-Monk Seding, here:

Bushveld dawn bird-orchestra. Deep growls, horses-n-trailers in the freeway distance, growling changing down. And then off into the Botswana-bound distance or back from there. They pull breath in and out, shake heads and in satisfaction, or bad mood, depending, go on eating up the asphalt. Road-graze. Predatory, still.

Tiny community, Seding. The country’s smallest municipality. But the regularity of graves opening up beats average middle-town. You see it in the expressions walking. Always on the verge of waking. And never doing it. Just going through. Doom walks here. Hangs on the shoulders, a monkey clinging tight. An air of resignation surrounds.

‘All we have here are our bodies, and they fade. First goes the elasticity under the constant pummelling, the hammering, the getting beat down. They shrivel up each day, get turned inside out until the red parts come out to the sun. Then no grip remains. And without that, what is woman? So you cannot earn by it, then… ’ She looks earth-beaten, jaded is not a description. Standing by the freeway roadside sticking her thumb out at passing motorcars, but only the ones with the sole male driver. Or the ones with no female occupants. She is going nowhere but to the end of a negotiation. And back. And then again. Just a ride to some sweat-laden rustling paper.

She is hitching flesh-sales, she tells me. Just open-faced. Poverty does not know what shame is, she lets me know. Morality is not edible. No destination except perhaps a pot on a stove. If that. ‘And the children shall eat.’ ‘I will shovel shit if it will feed my seed.’ That is the wish but often it is first, and then last, a frothing plastic mug brimming with potency’s brew. Then, perhaps… next the children will hunger-stare. & she will beat them, accusing them of being spoilt, they ate last night so why the tears. And then her man will beat her in turn. And sleep will come. For all.

***

Old socialist-communist-comrades gone capital is like THE YEARN. Ultra-straight man on crack cocaine sticking massive phallic objects up his rectum when the rush takes on. & Gael said: ‘It makes you know the truth about yourself. It is a serum. Gets you paranoid still, and you go scared of even yourself. Your shadow tails you, stalks you, talks menace to you…’ The sexual exhilaration is without outlet though. Builds up to explosion and then just peters out, leaves you whimpering, it is majangling electric-wired like the brain cells will explode, and you feel them, on the burn, the ends going to ash. The ultimate white-lit end of it just beyond your reach, and you grasp, your nails wanting to tear out even, if the need arise… and you try a hold on the nothing out there, just… outside your grasp… your arms not long enough… always just micrometres away, you never get to it. And know that for truth but no matter, you have to… so you hurry up and light up away before it disappears forever, you think… but inside you is knowledge of how vain it all is … and that even if it were not and you got to it, you would be smashed to bits, what smithereens means… and that will be the end to minuscule you in the universe floating up there before coming crash-landing on your being. And still you want it. And the hunger makes demands like starvation is your all…. and just one bite will be your salvation. IT IS MASTER, YOU ARE LESS THAN SLAVE NO RELATION MORE DEMEANING.

But you must obey because your genitals will it, the crotch reaches out, desiring deep. You want to fuck to the end of the tiniest crevice. And the biggest juice-dripping orifice beckons. And you want to squeeze the extent of your very self out of your body, it is a casing you don’t need anyway. You need your obliteration in the pleasure promise. So you stoke up white, open the coils. And the glass-pipe hums, mocking. And the rock sizzles and opens its legs for you to come in. Penetration time. You clutch the lighter tight. Don’t want it running away and gone. Need no loss now. And the seconds ticking seem centuries… and you flick and flame up, trembling in anticipation. You torch up, and solid turns liquid turns gaseous and your inhalation makes it shoot up your tunnels, seems running in and out all your holes. Like the hair is in shock standing up. Hold it in long as the lungs can withstand without collapsing, coming down hard. Joyous like nothing else ever since time. Hold, keep it in, still, blow out, sigh. & the wash comes. And baptises and blesses. And the warmth floods. And you grab your cock and pull. And it is to cry… it comes closer. & cums inside you. You pump harder. Fuck images flash, dance in your head behind your eyes and a million pussies yawn wet hot open and you sink your skull in them, all of them, same time. And you feel them wrap around you. You are your cock. And cunt. And arse. And sucking mouth. And sucked. Cunnilingused & fellated to all sevens. And still it calls you and you’re staggering. All the while you are running on your haunches though, like your legs amputated above the knees. Hard as you gallop can’t get there. Just on the point of coming it fades. & it is back to the beginning. Of your time, your existence. You tremble, shake, shiver, collapse into yourself again. Spent. And you did not even ejaculate. The call comes again. Seduces. And you realise your eyes are closed, so you open them and stare. And the black green yellow red stars exploding behind your eyelids retreat. You flop down defeated.

Lesego Rampolokeng is a poet and performance maestro, the author of 12 books, including two plays and three novels. He has collaborated with visual artists, playwrights, filmmakers, theatre and opera producers, poets and musicians. His no-holds-barred style, radical political-aesthetic perspective and instantly recognisable voice have brought him a unique place in South African literature.

Rampolokeng’s third novel Bird-Monk Seding is a stark picture of life in a rural township two decades into South Africa’s democracy. Listening and observing in the streets and taverns, narrator Bavino Sekete, often feeling desperate himself, is thrown back to his own violent childhood in Soweto. To get through, he turns to his pantheon of jazz innovators and radical writers.

 
Bird-Monk Seding

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