You told me

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,
decades later.

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,
their families.
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
international journals.

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.


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