Magnum Opus, an ensemble of award-winning poets. From left, Rabbie Wrote, Sibusiso Ndebele and Thobani Mntambo. Picture by Lungelo Msibi

TWELVE days into the year of the dog, deep in the belly of Soweto, nine children learned too early in their lives that a peanut butter and jam sandwich tastes much better when it isn’t the only option.
Growing up in the township, having both plastered between the same slices of bread was a luxury.

We have nothing, but we still moved with inflation when processed foods became a standard for lunch boxes and crèche meals.

Unworldly, wide-eyed Soweto, 9, accustomed to nursery rhymes and cartwheels.

Little did they know that lunch boxes have transformed to coffins right under their noses.

They fell ill. Their trip to Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital was a revelation.

The devils sold us decomposition.

The process meets food engineering.

Processed meats from this enterprise enter our bodies at a price.

We already have nothing, we can’t even Shoprite,

Yet we are cornered to Pick * Pay for death.

The tang of demise these meats leave on our tongues takes a pathologist to scrape off.

We, the insurgents in this rebellion against Tiger Brands, whose rands trickle in an hourglass and turns to slaughter sands.

There is no Prince of Persia here,

No sand will turn back time.

The 180 were dying to eat. This is a fact of the story.

These coffins meandered from the north in an ST6-type strain infested factory.

These microscopic coffins can live in nooks and crannies and can outlive a mundane scent of detergents.

But then again we have been eating contaminated food.

We will not forget the Genetically Modified Organisms in our staple,

even when you paddle poisonous Rainbow Chicken to our tables.

The decay had a journey to complete.

En route to Zimbabwe, but imports were halted.

How cold do you have to be for your cold meat to kill us?

The quest for Mozambique and Namibia was defaulted.

Botswana recalled the items with immediate effect.

How many links between your product and our deaths will it take?

Zambia called on South African retail chains in its country to pull the incriminated goods from local shelves.

Dear Lawrence MacDougall, chief executive officer at Tiger Brands,

Are you aware that you had our lives in your hands?

Your product has rendered our bodies as mosques. They are churches.

Our being is a pilgrimage, an exodus.

We are trying to flee ourselves.

These bodies are gardens, you water them with corned meat.

Lawrence, do you remember when we died?

The shattering pain when 180 spirits ripped through and escaped our bodies?

The blood rain that baptised our skins?

With thin pockets, we can barely carry our feet.

But still we survive the township streets.

We chase our dreams hours before the sun even imagines it will rise.

We move in darkness, the sun follows.

It procrastinates and just bounces on mountains a little while longer

before it sets.

Then our dreams chase us back home and we survive taxi rides.

We survive dark corners of those shape-shifting streets.

When night falls it never hits the ground.

But our bodies do when we ingest your polony, viennas and those damn Russian sausages too.

But then again, since it belongs to us.

If the land is barren, we will fertilise it with our decomposing residue.

This poem was co-written by Magnum Opus. Rabbie Wrote is one of three founding and current members in the ensemble of award winning poets with Thobani Mntambo and Sibusiso Ndebele.

The Saturday Star