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For Don M. – Banned by Mongane Wally Serote

“it is a dry white season
dark leaves don’t last, their brief lives dry out
and with a broken heart they dive down gently headed for the earth,
not even bleeding.
it is a dry white season brother,
only the trees know the pain as they stand still erect
dry like steel, their branches dry like wire
indeed it is a dry white season
but seasons come to pass.”

For Don M. – Banned is a poem by South African writer, Mongane Wally Serote. The poem was written in response to the ‘banning’ of fellow poet, Don Mattera. Mattera was ‘banned’ by the South African apartheid government between 1973 and 1982, which meant that he was not permitted to appear or speak at public functions, and was restricted to certain places.

This poem, which I read for the first time when I was about 15, is what evoked my love for the use of the metaphor in poetry. At that age, I disliked poetry classes. I did not understand why poets had to go out of their way to try and confuse their readers. ‘Why can’t they just say what they want to say like normal people?’ I often asked myself. And then I read this poem and it felt as though its response to me was ‘just be quiet and pay attention.’ 

I have been in love with poetry since.