Justice was our gardener for a few months last year and now he is employed as a security guard but art is his true passion. He told me at the beginning of 2016 he was putting a plan in motion to get serious about his art. His favorite artistic outlet is singing. He and Christine sang a lot while they were working around our house but back then I didn't know it was anything more than a love of church hymns and a way to pass the time. As he executed his plan to get serious, Justice visited a studio to record an African gospel music CD. I am hoping that once it's ready I can purchase a CD for myself as well as some for family and friends. Of course I won't understand the language but I know he has a great voice and I would like to support his efforts.
When Justice worked for us, I never knew about his love for art. I had an inkling into his creative mind through his style of gardening (remember the pine cone decorations.) He and Christine also created a picture for us, but I considered that more of a thank you than a passion. When I found out that Justice loved art, I gave him a bunch of art supplies. As a thank you, Justice made a beautiful painting for us. When I received the painting part of me felt badly because I thought Justice felt obligated to give us a gift to thank us for the supplies. But, I was so excited to own an original and beautiful painting created by an artist who I know personally that after about five seconds I forgot about feeling guilty and I ran out to get a frame for the painting.
|The painting before I framed it|
"OK teacher," he said, handing me the notebook. He pronounced teacher just like the kids at the school in Diepsloot, teach cha. "I want you to correct my English." He handed me the notebook and a red pen that he had brought for my use. I don't think Justice and Christine know that I volunteer teach in Diepsloot. I have never told them about it. So I don't think that has anything to do with the poetry editing assignment. I think as English is my first language, Justice was just hoping I could help.
I know absolutely nothing about poetry and I did tell him that repeatedly. I read poems when I was in grade school (because we had to) and I know the names of some poets like Robert Frost and Emily (I can't remember her last name right now something or other.) I wasn't sure if correcting the grammar and spelling was the right thing to do. Maybe the poems should have been left as they were originally written in his authentic voice as an African man whose first language isn't English. But he was adamant about what he wanted and so I edited the poems using the red pen. And I also typed them up and emailed them to him so he would have them for future use.
I can't say whether or not his poems are what poets and people who travel in poetry circles would consider good. I like them quite a bit but I could be biased. I found the poems interesting to read as they provide a glimpse into his life which I don't know much about.
When I first drafted this blog post I did not include a poem. I couldn't share Justice's work without his permission and I was concerned that if I asked permission he would say yes only because he might not be comfortable saying no. But then I showed Mr. Deep (my editor) the post and he said I needed to include a poem. So I went to see Justice at work and I asked him if it would be o.k. to include a poem in the blog and he said it was fine. You will notice that there is no punctuation. That is because the editor has no idea what she is doing and doesn't know if she should have added it.
The Burning Heart
By: Justice Makhokha
You can cover yourself
But you can’t hide the smoke
You look very well outside
But the flame is burning inside
You eat hot chilies as sweets
But inside your mouth is too hot
Why don’t you vomit that pain
Why don’t you set yourself free
There is no smoke without a fire
Raise the voice of help
Call the rain to stop the fire
The hand of mercy will help you