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»An Abandoned Bundle«

by Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali, May 1, 2001

The morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
as pus oozing
from a gigantic sore.

It smothered our little houses
like fish caught in a net.

Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood
fought fiercely
for a squirming bundle.

I threw a brick
they bared fangs
flicked velvet tounges of scarlet
and scurried away,
leaving a mutilated corpse-
an infant dumped on a rubbish heap-
'Oh! Baby in the Manger
sleep well
on human dung.'

Its mother
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.


The © Copyright to this poem is owned by the author.
Published by writerslounge.net on May 1, 2001 under courtesy of the author.

Reader comments

"note on this poem"
Paul Tetteh, Oct 26, 2012
"note on this poem"
Paul Tetteh, Oct 26, 2012
"bra mtshali u r da bst"
wonke, May 3, 2011
"i need a mini essay on the imagery of this this poem aswell as th sound devices used please."
. . . S . . ., Apr 12, 2011
Deliwe a.k.a nomhle dini, Apr 10, 2011
"Its wonderful"
Sello mosikare {discipline}, Apr 8, 2011
"Its superfantastic well done to oswald mtshali"
Kabelo a.k.a motia mohitlhi, Apr 8, 2011
"This poem is sad and its belong s to human being and it is superb"
Lawrence dini{kabila}, Apr 1, 2011
"This is the Internet. If I wished to be confronted with images of dead babies, being eaten by dogs on piles of human faeces, I'm sure there is a site dedicated to such. Quite why poets feel the need for sensationalism to compensate for an inability to use a simile properly, I do not know, but here it is. Quite why this poem is inflicted on pupils in a misguided attempt at literary patriotism also escapes me."
Smartass, Mar 31, 2011
"I think this poem is lame!!"
frank, Mar 31, 2011
"The poem still addresses the impurity and the doom that we still go through in our society and the environment. Today's society is not different from the society that Oswald'sher face glittering with innocence
is addressing. We do terrible things and behave as if nothing has happened."
Thembinkosi Sithole, Mar 29, 2011
"congrats this is a touching poem bt not so reader friendly"
nqhovi kurisani rikhotso, Mar 15, 2011
"this is a nyc i wish i cud write sumthng to enspire my community mr senonoi is our englsh teacher in valtech he rili lyks the poem oswald u there man."
mpho selenga, Mar 5, 2011
"I understand what you are talking about. It is unfortunately becoming common place in our country. I feel you did a good job in using your words to paint this sadness."
Ilka C.Buttrick, Feb 23, 2011
"The ladies must accept what they applied cause baby is a gift from god"
Carlos, Feb 20, 2011
"Eix wat a touching poem"
Musandiwa tshedza, Feb 19, 2011
"Great poem..."
Candice Swartz, Feb 19, 2011
"Which image is used by the poet in stanza 1 to describe white city jabavu as being sick?"
Cebo, Feb 13, 2011
"This poem is one of the most wonderful poems around the world"
Muzi Happyness, Dec 19, 2010
"Beautiful poem. Although to some it seems too honest,shocking even. But for me it is this rawness that makes it a work of art. Thanks Mr Mtshali."
Sibu M, Nov 20, 2010

had this as one of my school pieces"
Joshua Smit, Nov 13, 2010
"AWFUL poem!"
William, Nov 10, 2010
"the poem is about the prblem of poverty that South Africa is facing that results to young girls having sex and end up getting pregnant,only to make a living...those babies are thrown away because they can handle the responsibilities."
takalani mutshidzi, Nov 10, 2010
"I think this poem is filed with sadness and to do that 2 ur child is just wrong"
anny, Oct 28, 2010
"It is so intresting poem but also sad when reading it. oh baby in the manger Oswald was refering to Jesus Christ who was put in the manger after he was born. Scavenging dog also potray the situation where you can emagine dogs fighting for an abondened baby. This situation was the result of the apartheid system. The mother was not geting the help that she supposed to get from the government. The best option was to through the child away. She rather suffer alone than with a baby..."
Cedrick Baloyi, Oct 4, 2010
"this is a very touching poem expecially for me as a joung girl, it realy brakes my heart to see young girls trowing away their little babies.i was crying when i read this poem."
zuyana, Aug 18, 2010
"This is one of my fevorite peom ever.GOOG WORK MR MTSHALI"
Kholeka, Jul 27, 2010
"all i can say is wow!"
Puleng Paulinah Monare, Jul 22, 2010
"Mtshali was a man who had a vision of what SA would be like. We've grown into a nation of materialistic, society of scavangers!!"
bd, Jul 17, 2010
"i am looking for a poem i read many years ago, i forgot its title and the exact words. its always been stuck in my head. Its a witty yet comical poem about a guy who persuades his fancy to get intimate with him, claiming that time waits for no one and that while she is still beautiful they should get intimate. lol. if you know it please inbox me wikajovich@hotmail.com. thanx"
kay, Jun 21, 2010
"where can I find study notes for this poem?"
patricia, Jun 4, 2010
"it is so interesting poetry but trueful is painful after you complite it plz womens stay away from left innocent child like this"
mzwandile sibiya, May 18, 2010
"Yoooh dat a nice poem n it tells us the truth i lke it...."
NKULE.HOTCHICK, May 18, 2010
"Oh what a touching poem:I'd lyk 2 sy congrdulation 2 mr mstshali: through reading this poem I uz 2 cry' eventualy I realizd tht its a bible connotation indeed: kuri 4rm namankena"
Nqhovi kurisani Rikhotso, May 14, 2010
"dis are very goog poem I found it very delicious en well! Fanc ju"
Lijanda van Weik, May 12, 2010
"The poem arouses a lot of moral questions: The evils of baby dumping, the plight of innocent children probably born into poverty and then abandoned as a result, irresponsible men who get innocent girls pregnant and then shun responsibility, teenage pregnancy which results in desperation and frustration in the poor African communities... The list is endless! This is a great (but poignant) poem. If you don't get touched by this poem then get your moral sense (the seventh sense?) examined."
Itayi Nyakudya, Apr 30, 2010
"Do not forget the context/period in South African history – when this poem was written. I think that the aby in the manger refers to Jesus. Jesus' the Messiah brought a message of peace, hope, understanding, love, compassion, forgiveness, etc. The baby who dies tragically is also a messiah, but brings a totally different message – death, destruction, hate, oppression, heartlessness, etc. (that has a grip on humankind). Perhaps it demand that we rethink our lifestyle and attitudes towards other. Oh yes, and to find it in our hearts to forgive the mother for her transgression(s) – for are we without sin?"
Faber, Apr 21, 2010
"Truly speaking, Mr Mtshali has a way of using words to open our eyes, to see what we have been trying so hard to ignre. This poem shows how the social ill's of South Africa have polluted our way of life. This poem does it for me. Big Ups Mr Mtshali."
Theo Nyathela- Venda Shayandima., Apr 21, 2010
"This poem is very touching and can reduce the number of unwanted babies as the will think of making a very painful decision of her life"
Mulalo Mulaudzi-Venda Khubvi, Mar 29, 2010
"dis poem was very intresting and easy 2 understant as it related to life situations.i jst lv Mr Mtshli poems"
thobs, Mar 18, 2010
Sheryleigh, Mar 9, 2010
"indeed a deep poem that captures our attention and makes us wonder....."
gift, Mar 1, 2010
"what a wonderful poem,but i just cant deal with the sadness"
mshini , Feb 13, 2010
"What general impression does the poem give of the living conditions in ''White city Jabuvu''(Line 3)?"
J 1, Jan 21, 2010
"Very talented poet."
Yolande Du Plessis, Jan 6, 2010
"This poem talks about South Africa and Apatite rule and how it corrupted all the good things of the country. The poem is just a metaphor of Apatite ."
olivia kyere, Dec 1, 2009
"Do not like the bay in the manger bit – spoils it for me."
Ryan Cremore, Nov 30, 2009
"this poem seems to be a sentimental value to the author and it is quite intrestinging"
ayanda milkylane, Oct 29, 2009
"i think that we need to lern from this,it is one strong poem."
red violin, Oct 29, 2009
"this poem is a complex andit can confuse you in the exams and for everyone writing exams goodluck"
nuclear hil, Oct 29, 2009
"this is one poem a person woud fail,because of the unstending an"
khanya masango, Oct 29, 2009
"its a very interesting poem and very complicated"
nuclear hil, Oct 29, 2009
"Il b writtng ma exams p2 engsh nd i hope ths poem cums u coz i got a total on it last term"
Phumla, Oct 27, 2009
"excellent poem, paints vivid pictures of immorality and poverty."
mariam ali ibrahim, Oct 16, 2009
"that's why they call him Mtshali... 27 years later, the poem still assaults my senses with such volcanic force..."
Moemise Motsepe, Oct 8, 2009
"Wonderful poem! show us a bit of reality!"
Werner Smal, Sep 4, 2009
"Beautiful very beautiful"
Romeo, Aug 26, 2009
"It shows the social challenges faced by female teenagers in South Africa in the apartheid regime."
Edward Makasane, Jun 30, 2009
"qiet an iterligent"
thabo letsoene, Jun 25, 2009
"I always liked his poems....wow, what a marvel to read"
Khanari T.D, Jun 9, 2009
"wonderful poem good work"
you, Jun 8, 2009
"dont you have any notes on the poem?"
me, May 21, 2009
"This Sad but not so good :("
Rappiesstt, May 20, 2009
"dit was baie mooi."
Hettie Van Zyl, May 9, 2009
"he is very good,this poem is deeply sad,i even feel the pain the mother when takin that decision"
victor kori, Apr 16, 2009
"a masterpiece in its own accord, very sensetive and touching...."
hazel, Apr 14, 2009
"i really think he is a good poet,i wish to have his skills of communicating such touching messages to his readers"
pitjeng, Feb 28, 2009
"The poem is good but are the events real. Too sad. God bless the poor soul."
Kingsley, Jan 30, 2009
"It breaks my heart in pieces. A picture well drawn."
Raps, Jan 23, 2009
"it brings up a memory of my own..... and its makes me even more sad....."
Zandre Erasmus, Jan 22, 2009
Steinei, Jan 21, 2009
"This is my English teacher's favourite poem, we spend an entire term discussing it, doing a full analysis and expressing our feelings on how we felt about babies being abandoned. When I read it for the first time, I was highly impressed and still am. It is a great poem and affects everyone in some way, no one can read this and not feel anything."
Laetitia, Dec 3, 2008
"Food 4 thought..."
Dazzle Miss blingsta, Dec 3, 2008
"It potrays the blight of the present day ills of our humanity that has lost direction."
Christopher Kudyahakudadirwe, Nov 24, 2008
"it shows how situation can deform our humanity and well-being.how the rottenness of society translates into our behaviour causing the innocent pain and suffering."
Chauke Malvern Tiyani, Nov 19, 2008
"in the poem, what does this line mean? flowed thick yellow as pus oozing from a gigantic sore ?"
SIjabu, Oct 26, 2008
"Lovely poem. I once read another one he wrote(The shepard and his flock).love that poem if anone has it please email it to me at sgodongwana@gmail.com"
Sivuyile Godongwana, Oct 17, 2008
"a foolish poem.if he had not written, I would not spend the whole of my time today , in the Cafe"
pd, Oct 9, 2008
"Beautiful and sad"
Masechaba Wessie , Sep 18, 2008
"I read this peom back in high skool and it moved me then as it still does now.. any kind of poet to be really exceptional must not only be good with words but also have a great deep-feeling heart. I salut you"
Simmz Cele, Sep 11, 2008
"a vry touching poem. felt like crying wen readin it. to understand it deeper go to knowledge4africa, explains it deeper. love your poem"
fayolla, Aug 28, 2008
"As I read this , I could not help but realize the fate these people have been given by their society. And to capture this Fate in a work of art is genius. Very nice work! although it may be a sad reality and a crude piece of work, it was eye opening."
Anonymous, Jul 31, 2008
"To answer a question posted by another visiter:"Baby in a manger" refers to Jesus Christ, who innocently died for the sins of Christians, conveying the innocence of the baby. This poem give me a feeling of total distress, it must be the hardest dicision a mother(still a child herself) can ever make, no matter how wrong it is in our eyes. I cried my eyes out during and after this poem, it had me thinking for weeks! A truely gruesome and awakenig poem as to life in a South-African township (Jabavu being a part of the infamous SOWETO township in South-Africa)."
Understanding Reader, Apr 24, 2008
"What can I say about this poem? I can say it is wonderful, sad, an eye opener. But all these comments seem mediocre for this mans work."
gabi, Apr 1, 2008
"Very sad but wonderful"
Violet, Mar 20, 2008
"Wow what a wonderful poem"
Sfi 4 sho, Jan 28, 2008
"It is a very interesting poem but it should be explained for the deeper understanding."
mel, Jan 17, 2008
"the poet calls the child " Baby in manger". to whom is he referring?"
bridgettee, Oct 30, 2007
VENUS, Sep 20, 2007
"Damn, wonder what inspired this. Sad but luv ur work"
MCW, Jan 16, 2007
tammy, Jul 7, 2002

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