New poetry by Sihle Ntuli, from Rumblin’

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents new poetry by Sihle Ntuli, from his chapbook, Rumblin’, published by uHlanga Press.


No Exit

Durban Transport
the Ntuzuma E & F bus
and all of a sudden
the singing of hymns
to whipping out of bibles
palms beating on the holy book

the congregation got on
from the bus stop
opposite Musgrave Mall
their frail legs
steep strides up steps
arms pulling their bodies up
the driver handing back tickets

they began
just as we passed Overport City
the motion of circles
dabs along corners of her forehead
gentle strokes along the temples
our end foreshadowed
by a handkerchief

after catching her breath
the sermon about the last days
live flame in the throat
from the burn of the word
a scorchin’ and a scrapin’ of the lungs
hellfire and brimstone

echoes of Sartre in the smoke
like mirrors, the chorus
of the elderly devoted
on the end of her every word
the coming of the flood
the rest of us left to drown
in holy oxygen

these were holy words
safa saphela abazalwane
disarming, respect for the elderly
the legs made no attempt
to kick out of emergency glass
a collective paralysis

blindly we followed
into the final stages of our grief
and as we turned
towards the window
to measure how far we had come
how much more of this to take

we were only in Newlands West
it would be a whole two stops
before we even reached



my late uncle-in-law had one

in the Iminwe music video
he was wearing one

old school ginsa
who lived down the road
he died wearing one too

in ’98
inside my young mind
becoming clear

on the neck of a black man
to wear a necklace
is to die



I could never
bring myself to ask

the artist and title
of the cassette tape
that my uncle was killed for

on the streets
of KwaMashu F

the murderer still walks
his footsteps block out
our moments of silence

© Sihle Ntuli, 2020

  • Sihle Ntuli (b. 1990) is poet 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.

    He is the author of Stranger (Aerial Publishing, 2015) and has had work published in South Africa and across the African continent. His poetry was shortlisted for the DALRO Poetry Prize in 2017.
Author image: Niamh Walsh-Vorster/Composite: The JRB

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

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