I Am An African

I am an African;
An ivory- keys- melody sending Nkosi Sikeleli from my heart to the galaxy
And the galaxy smiles when I play. It says,
I love the sound of home in your chest, dear Africa.
Under the stars I am stripped of pigment.
I am whatever colours they shine onto me and they shine them all.
We fall in-love.
I with those gaseous fireballs and they with
White, african me.
Dear humanity:
Being white does not make me un-african.
I was born on the furthest tip of Africa’s tongue and I rolled from her lips
A secret.
Like so many baby-tooth-truths before me,
My arrival was whispered.
Because laced with this undertone of pink
Is the justification behind
The eviction that you have assigned to my race.
Tell me, dear sister, robed
In ebony:
When you ask for my name and say
That the letters taste foreign
What reaction do you expect from me?
You’ve asked me to rehearse
to rehearse
to rehearse and caress
The letters that outline you
Because they are sacred,
Because they carry your identity like a precious commodity
Because they are the first
In this anthem of camaraderie
-the same anthem that lulls our children to peaceful sleep-,
But you seem to have forgotten your side of that lullaby.
Leaves my lips,
Aiming straight for your ears,
But something in the historically gun-smoked air between us
Distorts the rhythm of my words and
Your ear-
No wonder they beat so furiously.
I know that you are angry
You have a right to be, but me telling you that
Is like holding a book and telling the pages:
you have a right to be bound.
I hear your story.
Do you hear mine?
My pages have a right to be bound too.

I am an African.
My veins are laced with animal spoor,
Backed by this drumbeat-heart beating in time
With the elephant serenade of yet another marula-framed sunset.
Tell me that my skin is too pale to capture such brilliance
And I will ask you,
What artist has not started with a still paler canvas?
Artwork me is pleased with the palette that I was painted in,
Is in-love with the way that the sun tints my skin,
Is no less awed by artwork you,
Is soothed by the feel of  wind dancing in strands of my hair.
In fact, my hair is an african masterpiece;
Not quite the colour of chocolate or gold,
But some less idealised in-between.
Like the freshly unearthed riches that birthed the streets of Egoli,
I belong here.
I can feel it in the way my toes find home
In the same stones that once littered the dragon-backed Burg.
I can smell it every time my airways flood with childhood memories
From taking a breath in the veld.
I can taste it in Black Boy’s poetic rendition of mama’s cooking,
Like the way to liberation has only ever been through a heart-warming meal.
Black Boy Be onto something.
I can see it in the shades of feet that greet the stage,
Like poetry is the lung through which honesty breathes
And honesty breathes heavily
-Airways choked with ink-
Because there was never meant to be enough ink for what Africa has to say,
But we write for her anyway
And hope that the poetry, more than the pain,

I am an African
And I love my Africa.
Africa is a big place,
You say and you’re right, it is.
But I am a wordsmith too, so you’ll find
My Africa is a place where there are 11 official ways to say,
Welcome to Africa, white girl.


Sonnet 01

A wounded Pride will not rest ere Revenge,
The cold, the savage, the bitter to taste,
Has pressed its cracked lips to a smiling face
And felt such soft skin- from the broken- cringe,
As that of petals hoping to bloom again.
Those broken lips rip holes through petal-space,
like nightmares through a young dreamer’s rib-cage,
And Pride lets slip its control of Vengeance.
So, if flowers are prey to chasm kisses,
Then Hope is a soil for fleurs to steep in
And Revenge can kiss like a strong pesticide,
But for all blackhole and nightmarish threats
There is a garden, with a dream growing
Of Love and of lip-balm and a healed Pride.


My friend, look at me.
I feel brave enough to say,
out loud to you and to a world of strangers,
that I found more than just peace
in the seconds I used to pass in your presence.
Friendship wasn’t all I saw when I looked at you.
what I saw when I looked at you
were the five things in your eyes that excited me,
the ways that your stare made me shiver.
when I looked at you
our eyes met and my world was jolted a little
by way of consequence.
I call our time together providence,
you may call it what you like.
When I looked at you I saw
your eyes,
those eyes.
I saw so much
in those eyes,
your eyes.

The very first time my eyes ventured to find yours
I thought,
I like the way you look,
the way you view.
I imagined your root-like irises
stretching to touch that cholesterol hula-hoop
that pens them in- the colour of wood.
-Of warm wood,
-like cedar-meets-Walnut warm wood,
with a wood-fire gaze.
Do you remember when you would thaw me with that hearth?
Your blaze refreshed me.
It felt like the glacier enclosing my spirit
dared to kiss a flame
and instead of dying,
transformed into a puddle of peace.
So puddle and flame would sit for hours,
side by side
and our hidden heart’s desires would pepper the night
like stars,
never touching
for fear that we would amount to little more
than a steam-trail rising against a burnt sky.
The embers in your eyes delighted me
and I found home in that familiar flicker of your face,
the one that invited me
to be all of me
with you.
Whenever life chilled,
I knew that I could always return
to you,
my fireplace.

Eventually I noticed that you were like the weather.
you began to look at me in a way
that made hurricanes germinate between us.
In my memory of that squall,
you were the wind
and I, the rain.
I wanted only to fall through you, but you blew me away
choosing hail instead.
Those stones could not be blown
so they tore holes instead.
She, the hail,
you, the tattered wind.
The destruction looked beautiful to me,
so I fell through a breeze instead.
A gentle breath of air that loved me for a drizzle.
In my attempt to love him for a wind, I flooded him.
He the breeze,
I, the fickle rain.
your gale found me shivering as
I felt your tempest absorb me
and thought,
if bad weather could be beautiful,
I need only return your gaze to understand why.
My raindrops yearned for a blizzard to form that beauty of a storm with
and your hurricane gaze enthralled me,
crawled beneath my skin.
So I thought,
you could be my monsoon
and I, your deluge.
I fell in love with a tornado,
not yet having learned that swirling clouds are something to run away from.
I trusted you,
my perfect storm.

I found a voyage in your regard;
a curious glint-of-a-ship
in your eye,
traversing across seas of knowledge.
Vessel-you challenged the billows,
dropped anchor in the most violent swells
and drank-
never satiated by the thirst-inducing waves.
Your boldness was fascinating.
It seemed to me that this ocean of truths
revealed to you its secrets,
transfixed- as I was-
by your maverick pupils.
With every blink,
a gust of wind puffed out your eager sails
in search of the next thing that you might find interesting.
I found you interesting.
So, my vessel challenged yours until
yours became a part of who I wanted to be.
I loved the explorer in you.
Some days you kept me from drifting, so
I put my faith
in you,
my anchor.

At your touch, I thought,
inhale me.
Breathe me in.
Make me crave you and I’ll be back
before you’ve doubled back
to ask me back.
I closed my eyes
and shivered.
It felt like an explosion;
heating our skin,
clawing its way in,
compensating for something.
Lack of love?
but I remember the way I fit into the space
between your arm and your side
I remember tracing
your lips
with my teeth
and your teeth
with my tongue
and how your lips gently closed around the tip of my thumb.
It tasted like Dom Pedro.
I remember everything.
If we had been flavours,
you were the sugar and I, the spice;
because your kiss tasted sweet and mine was rough,
because you wanted me,
had acquired a taste for me,
but only so much,
because as much as I desired you,
you posed a threat to my pre-diabetic love.
Sugar, you made me shiver,
charged me with eyes like forgotten-gold dropped in a jaded river,
pulled me into your whisper and advised me not to fall for you,
but held me like I was made for you anyway.
Any day, we could’ve lost it.
You told me not to think about it as your kiss enveloped my fingertips
and then, In little more than a look said,
this is all I want from you.
I’ve never felt so cold.
I couldn’t have imagined such cruelty
from you,
my heartbreak.

So, look at me
my friend and fireplace,
my perfect storm,
my anchor,
my love and heartbreak.
Give me one last look at that fifth thing
the one I can’t bring myself to immortalise here
in this poem,
because then I lose that too.
I’ll look for something of a whisper
of those eyes I once loved.
I’ll search your tangled roots,
until my palms are lathered in scratches,
for that familiar warmth,
but find no dancing embers.
I’ll finally learn to run from swirling clouds,
though I suspect a storm of a man will still wreak havoc in my dreams.
When that happens, I’ll ignore the shivers, and think,
maybe your hurricane was just not right for me,
maybe wind and rain only ever tatter hearts
and flood friendships with pain.
Maybe the only one made to love with a storm-like beauty
is Jesus,
then all unforeseen kisses would be heavenly.
In my searching, I’ll discover that
I should have seen the suffocation coming;
Those tidal-wave eyes needed something to crash into,
to crush and tumble and drown.
tug-boat-me was just in the wrong place at the wrong time-
an accidental casualty of your curiosity.
I’ll decide never to call you anchor again,
then stop searching as it dawns on me
that there isn’t any love left for me to find.
Those eyes will be like foreign orbs.
So I’ll let the memories flood instead:
I wanted to kiss you
I’ll remember, you said.
And so, you did.
The act meant nothing more and not a thing less.
I’ll remember realising when this particular flavour of pain
tasted just like the words of John Greenleaf Whittier:
For all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.
I’ll remember loving you only as much as hating you,
and missing you only as much as loathing to be around you.
I’ll remember everything.

Finally, I’ll let it all go, but treasure that fifth thing,
the one I couldn’t bear to immortalise here,
because it has only ever been beautiful
and this is a story of pain.
If reading it hurts you too, know that my motive goes no further than this:
Pain needs to breathe.
My love, I breathe in poetry.

The city and the stars

One night,
I make a discovery.
The city has been harvesting the stars
while we’ve been working.
Every time I look up,
more and more of the twinklings
meant to be hovering over me
with a knowing glow,
are no longer decorating the heavens.
they sleep with rags on our streets,
hungrily counting the passing cars.
Our dreams fuel this maddened,
inverted world,
where the earth illuminates the black night.
Every hour that we work overtime,
every friend’s birthday
postponed for a less busy week,
every moment we think
that earthly ambitions
are more important than living,
another star lethargically deflates
and falls into the greedy,
claws of the city.

Soldier On

You and I, we have our dreams.
In them we are dancers,
praised in our still-most moments
where ésprit et visage unitedly reflect our depths
and in the silence,
our whispers become intimate with those dreams,
the distance between them as broad as a blink.
They look a lot like what it would look like,
if a shooting star and a grape vine were to notice one another
and just stop; for the sake of the memory.
But our silent dreams do little to drown out the sounds of reality.
Here, it’s noisy-
every earlobe drenched in the sounds of our unified steps-
and some of us are a little broken.
We’ve been through the walls to bear our bumps and bruises
as reminders
of how much it hurt to get to where we are now.
Worth it,
doesn’t quite fit what it feels like to have made it to today.
Our hands are rugged,
our shoes are torn,
our smiles falter when you look at us
our blisters are nomadic;
they travel through our hearts like footprint-smudges
of the names that once played there.
You call us warriors,
but we are like soldiers -following orders,
shooting whenever and whomever
General Life commands.
You get caught in the cross-fire and then call us
but we are still the same,
it is only your perception of us that has changed.
we are not fickle.
Our stories falsely inspire those who fail to understand,
and most of them fail:
We don’t like hugs,
because each touch from you sears our already too-tender skin
with promises of care
that do little more than just hang there,
between us.
It’s not that we need your love-
it’s that we recognise how little you need ours
and that hurts.
“Soldier on”, you say.
Like that isn’t all we’ve been trained to do.
Like we haven’t been soldiering longer than we’ve known you.
Like being a soldier is something to be proud of.
Like you’re not going to walk away the first time you get shot.
Like it’s not going to hurt us when you do.
But it will- and when it does,
we’ll just keep soldiering on until it fixes things like you promised us it would.
But it won’t,
because it never does.
Yet here we are,
soldiering on like you told us to.

It’s a stoic outlook we nurse-
each soldier for his or her own reasons,
but she is different.
Fossils will fall from the creases of her feet if you find her today.
There will be footprints of purpose
stroking the dew-kissed leaves she passes
and petals will quiver beneath her breath,
as the tears that fall from her jawline
bring life to ant-necropolis.
She is the mourning goddess
in search of a wintering that frosted her bosom and her lips
and in a fated act of preordained kisses and Kings,
married the sting to her skin.
Today is the most beautiful day of her sorrow;
it looks just the same as when faith slipped from her embraces
to find comfort in the company of
earthworms and bones and rotting flesh.
She is the mourning goddess
with fossils that fall from the creases of her feet
as she glides to the grave-place where faith lay today.
If you are still enough,
she might drip truth from her lips,
perhaps even open them wide enough for a tongue to perch upon their breadth
and swallowfully preen its featherweight promises
from the barely-alive flesh
it sings odes to.
Her starlit hair reminisces deaths she has already suffered,
as she awaits the wished-upon recognition
of a life long passed,
but only now leaving us.
She mourns each second that leaves without her.
weep for each tear that drops upon our death-city
commissioned by love lost and washed away.
Forgetting his place,
he wrote about the last day
before she found rest
in the blistering heat of a sun,
not ours.
She walks,
crumbling fossils in her stead.
We watch,
small as insects bedding old memories
with the rippled earth
that the creases of her feet leave to us.
The dust kicked up by hurried steps-
in some other direction-
filters through the ruins,
but still,
eyes are pressed upon our mourning goddess.
Her wails creep between our bones,
pinching our heels
until the feeling is lost,
until we can’t count how many of our pieces we’ve lost,
until she falls back in-line
and marches silently on,
with the rest of us.

is an empty promise to his mirror
of the man he always swore he would be.
A wrong ingredient on the shopping list.
A hi 5 that just missed.
He doesn’t quite fit in.
They call him Titan,
not the bloody-brute type,
but the type that’s just too tall
to stand up in the world.
They call him Titan,
because he walks hunched-over
like his back was made to cradle the world.
They call him Cronus,
because he doesn’t look like he’d ever know how to love,
because “if I was his son, I’d want to banish him too”,
because there just aren’t  enough shadows in this world
to hide monsters
“like you”.
They call him Titan,
because his heart is an erratic, thundering beat-
to the untrained ear,
but in that dreamed-of stillness
you can hear it a little clearer…
there’s a chanting in his chambers.
That single word, barely whispered.
over and over.
trying on the name like a bullet-proof vest that’s too big.
making it fit.
owning it.
it drives him to rally the masses,
“Let’s be our own titan-types!
Lets wield pens
and leave our ink-prints all over this earth’s young surface.
Virgin word-roots, we’ll rip
from their unyielding pages
and give new life
in the richness of our own writing.
Even Gaya would be pleased
to see such garden-rite

But all this plays out only
with our young soldier’s pen;
his tongue has not been strong enough
to roar saplings to life
since they gave him a gun
and pushed him
to march silently on
with the rest of us.

“Soldier on”, you say,
and we do.
Waiting for all the promises
of healed bruises and blisters
to be true.


“Could it be a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done?”

Footsteps drag through the empty building.
His eyes close.
He knows the sun is brushing the outside walls,
(Not too early to be noticed in the halls).
Routine has allowed him the assumption..
sunlight stretching, never to touch him,
towering cold stone that encases instead.
July 30th 2014
to rest.

For the first time, he realises the cruelty of being on the third floor the moment he walks through its doors.

A pause.

A breath.

The first stage of his stairwell journey commences. Choosing not to take the elevator, he notes that this is an endeavour to savour. His goal leaps 18 floors above and rests 16 floors below, he knows they will ask questions amungst themselves, but never feel the relief of truth in their assumptive answers.

He is now on the fifth floor, Adrenalin burns through his chest, he cant remember all the steps “should I turn back? I’m not ready for this!” but is anyone ever really ready for death? The wall before him asks for his hand, says; “I am the only one you have to lean on now.” Shoulders tensed; he is out of breath, so loosens the faucet of his thoughts to quench his questioning soul with waters of “This is why i was never whole!” Allowing all of them to run out, he mulls them over, sips, and lets them go. But just as the last of his reasonable doubt falls out, his darkest head-space illuminates the vintage aches as he purposefully ascends his last day. The first of these dusted bottle memories is firmly corked. a deathly red swirls inside. Anxiety screws itself deep within his mind as he anticipates the flooding boquet. “okay”, he says, releasing a shaky breath as a surprisingly sweet scent teases teardrops from his eyes. “Mom” he sighs and spills her into Limbic glass. Lips greet like ‘good night baby’- kisses from all those years ago. Liberated, he lets the taste, touch, and smell of her go. The shift in mental weight forces him to walk faster and lighter than he would have liked, but every second that strikes-on is one second too long, and every step that he takes uncorks a new vintage ache until there is no more left to seduce his resolve from the window-sill that the tread of his shoes now desperately hold.

September 1st 2014. Less  tears are shed this time around the body hiding month-old stains of a vineyard’s last wine. Less stares are met with the man lying on a bed of cement. Less subtleties are passed to mask the tragedy of the second suicidal leap of this quarter. His last word was a scream to wake the dead as he joined them with a sound like a gun shot to the head, He could have done that instead. “do you feel alive yet?” she wept between angry gasps of breath. She mourned him. Not because she had ever known his story or his name, but because he took her hopes of “It gets better than this” with him to the grave.