Poetry Notes - Mrs-claassen.co.za

mrs.claassen.co.za

Poetry Notes - Mrs-claassen.co.za

IF YOU DON’T STAY BITTER FOR TOO LONG

By Charles Mungoshi

POEM: EXPLANATION:

If you don’t stay bitter Bitter = resentful / cynical

and angry for too long

you might finally salvage Salvage = save / recover

something useful Useful = constructive / helpful

from the old country The old country = Zimbabwe before the civil war (formerly Rhodesia).

A lazy half sleep summer afternoon The poet is saying that one of the things worth remembering from the old

for instance, with the whoof-whoof

of grazing cattle in your ears

tails swishing, flicking flies away

or the smell of newly turned soil

with birds hopping about

in the wake of the plough

in search of worms

country is the uncomplicated rural way of life. He talks of “lazy” days spent

in nature, and living off the land.

“Whoof-whoof” = onomatopoeia

or the pained look of your father He also believes that the values of the older generation are worth saving.

a look that took you all these years

and lots of places to understand

He didn’t understand or appreciate the views of his father at the time, but

now that he has matured and been exposed to the hardships of life, he

realizes his father’ was right about a lot of things.

The bantering tone you used with your Relationships with extended family members are also worth saving. There

grandmother and their old laugh

that said nothing matters but death

is much comfort and wisdom to be gained from their life experiences, like

not to take yourself too seriously (“nothing matters but death”).

If you don’t stay bitter The first lines of the poem are repeated here, except that the poet adds:

and angry for too long

and have the courage to go back

“and have the courage to go back”. It’s all very well to forgive and forget,

but the real value comes from working through the past, not turning your

back on it. It takes courage to confront your inner demons.

you will discover that the autumn smoke But … if you have that courage, you will discover that out of the destruction

writes different more helpful messages

in the high skies of the old country.

(“autumn smoke”), people have learned valuable lessons and healed.

Society has been reborn (“writes different more helpful messages”).

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