by Makhosazana Xaba
You told me you speak French,
took lessons evening after evening.
It was important to you that,
when you go on your dream holiday in Paris,
you can communicate
because the French are hostile
when you do not speak their language.
You told me you speak Yiddish
because your grandparents spoke it to you,
you learnt it as a child and, surprisingly,
you still can speak it,
You told me you’ve had
Black friends since 1976,
since the struggle days,
because you were involved
in the struggle for that long.
You drove comrades to their homes
after meetings, at night,
braving the drive back to your own suburb.
You met your comrades’ parents,
You even baby-sat their children.
You told me that
you loved your nanny with all your heart
because she raised you like her own.
In fact, you told me
you used to run to her
in her servants’ quarters, at the back,
when your big house in front felt lonely
and your parents were having a fight.
Yes, you even said,
you said you preferred her company
to that of your parents
and your parents’ friends
because she sang songs to you
put you on her lap
and rocked you to sleep
while your family
had arguments around the dinner table.
You have academic degrees,
articles published in peer-reviewed
You are a true South African.
Dedicated your life to the struggle.
You told me you even had black lovers
because colour never meant anything to you.
You also told me you have taken
so many Zulu lessons in your life
you’ve lost count,
but the lessons were too didactic,
the language too tonal,
time too tight,
struggle meetings took too much time,
You still cannot speak Zulu.
Sometimes white flags and olive branches
are not enough
as calls for Peace.
It takes a significant action
from the other
to let the guard down
to be vulnerable
And be open to reconciling
As the first step.
One by one
All the horrible things you said
My words that you used against me,
All of it
Came flooding back.
And it made me wonder why I still text you.
Why am I trying to keep this amicable
When those words still hurt me?
Pain is a harsh reminder of one’s humanness.
It weakens you.
The vulnerability and the tears
From the moment I opened my eyes until now,
I remembered that I would never ever be in full control.
That sometimes I need to stop
Take care of myself
Gain my strength back.
And during that time
I wished that someone would rub my womb
And tell me that I’m ok
Just as I am.
I wanted a hug from you.
And I craved my mother’s lentil soup.
“My love has abandonment issues.
My love hates sleeping alone.
My love, a clenched fist around your
heart; yes, my love is that terrifying
because it doesn’t know release.
Imagine the moon, how she sets the ocean
free to spill over distant shorelines only to
clutch it back to her chest again and again.
We call this ‘tide’.
We call it ‘gravitational pull’.
My love is like that —
Except they don’t write scientific theories
around my love; this swelling in my chest
is too big to be understood.
Big enough to have its own gravity
and some nights, even strong enough
to pull you back into my arms.”
— Anita Ofokansi
“The belief that boys won’t like books with female protagonists, that they will refuse to read them, the shaming that happens (from peers, parents, teachers, often right in front of me) when they do, the idea that girls should read about and understand boys but that boys don’t have to read about girls, that boys aren’t expected to understand and empathize with the female population of the world….this belief directly leads to rape culture. To a culture that tells boys and men, it doesn’t matter how the girl feels, what she wants. You don’t have to wonder. She is here to please you. She is here to do what you want. No one expects you to have to empathize with girls and women. As far as you need be concerned, they have no interior life.”
– Shannon Hale
I have the camera now
So I should use it for self-discovery
But I won’t.
At least not yet anyway.
And amongst all the hustle and bustle
And the getting ready to travel,
There were short, half-cold hugs
That should’ve been longer
I sleep diagonally now
Because I miss being held at night.
I keep my words to myself
Because I don’t know who else would understand them as you did.
And I plod along.
Placing one foot in front of the other
And pray I come out the other side alive.