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The flowers of yesterday by Roland Mhasvi

This is a collection of highly esoteric poetry…, which can be charged of what Afrocentric scholars have described as ‘piles of esoterica and ostentatious erudition’… The language is to the ordinary reader opaque, the imagery is inaccessible and the symbolism is surprisingly unusual but invitingly novel…real food for scholars.

“The dry cracks of the mind fill up with sand,
Dusty acres of self-doubt spread,
Creeping jaggedly on,
Leaving in their wake, like the ruins
Of an ancient civilization,
The broken fragments of a despairing vision…”

This is the first stanza of a piece entitled “Dawn 1984”, which ends with these lines:

“Sorrows that come hurtling down mind walls and
Smash into the blood clots that echo
In the empty chambers of a lonely heart.”

Perhaps the review could have focused on the message of despair, the stench of sorrow, something as applicable to today’s Zimbabwe more than it was in 1984 (the time the poem references) and 1996, when I wrote the review. And you haven’t even seen this:

“The darkening gloom spreads over the postrate land,
Over the barren wastes of a sickening mind…
…shadows and leeways
Of a forgotten dream.”

Here was Masvi talking of a disappearing dream, but he knew too that there would be hope:

“From the East a light glows,
A beacon of the heart,
An arc of radiance and power that
By the minute grows,
And lo! from the East tufted grass,
… the land begins to pulse and beat,
Washed in the glowing promise of a new dawn.”

In his poem, Masvi knew that his 1984 dawn was late, but it was there, coming from this East… (and I am here wondering:East? Mozambique? What?) But that’s the beauty of poetry, its ability to use images with infinite possibilities of interpretation.

The title poem is about change:

“The Old World of high mountains and low vales,
Of old plains that nestled towns and cities,
Rolled away and was dissolved into Myth,
And uncoverd levelled land that stretched far
To the deadly Flats of re-built Futures.”

In 1996 was annoyed by what I viewed then as the “fake” capitalization of impotent words in the poem, like, “Old World”, “Flats”, “Futures”. But I could not ignore the promise in these lines: “The Flowers of Yesterday had become/The Weeds of Tomorrow.” And if Tomorrow is Today, and we are talking about the former heroes of Zimbabwe who have caused untold suffering, you can detect a prophetic message, right? And guess what happened to the flowers of yesterday:

“The Old Sun kissed your sinking hills farewell,
And, soon, you were but twinkles in the gloom.”

I can’t end this discussion without citing this last stanza of “Sunset”, the last poem of the book:

“My sun is set; I lie in shade,
And shadows thicken round my cave!
Most like my soul will smoke in Hade
As maggots swarm my silent grave.”

Reading it now, I could easily say it’s the voice of one of the Flowers of Yesterday, whose “sinking hills [and their caves] have been kissed Farewell by the “Old Sun”….

There was something for the ordinary reader in this book after all!

The flowers of yesterday pdf to download will be available on Eduzim Downloadables in the next few days. Please keep checking.

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