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.



Dear reader,

Welcome to the interior of my mind. It’s an odd place, but the designer was feeling somewhat experimental when He put it all together so, for your own safety throughout the tour, please attentively read through the following guidelines:

The tour will feel a bit like walking down a corridor with rooms on either side, each with its own uniquely designed door. Some doors will be open and waiting for you, others will be closed, but unlocked for you to open (or not to open) yourself. Others (these are the disclaimed ones) will be a bit stuck.

> The open doors:
These are what most people come here to see. They are easy to navigate because, as you will find once you enter these rooms, they are usually singularly focused. Poetry dominates in terms of furnishing, but the individual items can be just about anything. When you enter these rooms, please make yourself at home! As an example of rooms in this category, look out for Sonnet 01; The city and the stars and A beautiful reaction.

> The unlocked doors:
This is where the corridor starts winding a bit. These rooms are less about the comfort of the guests and more about sharing the personal journey of the mind you find yourself walking through. Less standardised than the previous set of rooms, when you enter, you will find that each room has it’s own character: One may be an exhibition of  how to tame water, while another might be in a constant state of refurbishing. In short, these rooms are all themed, but that is where their shared characteristics end. If you came to see these, please look for the doors labeled, Breathe, girl, breathe; Gros bisous and China: The initial experience.

> The stuck doors:
This is interesting, because it comes two-fold: Though visitors are often timid in trying to shoulder-nudge-open these doors, they hold the foundation of this entire mental abode. Each of these rooms is a sort of factory-of thought. Here is where heavy introspection lurks, the kind of introspection needed to fuel the building of planks and blocks that line these walls and carry your feet. A lot of what you see inside, may be a developing thought, or a thought no-longer relevant, but kept with all the respect of a relic. If you came here for deep, we will direct you towards such rooms as Soldier on; Beasts I’ve known; What I wish she had said instead and Shiver.

DISCLAIMER: If you feel dizzy or confused, let me know by leaving your comments at the door of whichever room is responsible as you leave. Note: some rooms may feel like they do not actually have any solid floor or walls, but rather have the feel of a mist drifting in and out of focus. Don’t panic, I said this was an odd place after all.

Enjoy the tour!



What I wish she had said instead


Baby girl, mama loves you. You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful that sometimes people won’t be able to resist the way that looking at you just makes them feel alive because you remind them of what God can do; You look like hope to the downtrodden, but, baby girl, sometimes people dream in their prison-cell minds of how this world would better suite their death-in-life if there were no better dressed in hope, or beauty, or God. So watch who you let in. There are armies all around you, armed with the kind of smile that strips skin from skin so subtly that it takes a tidal wave of acidic grins before the gravity of what they have taken from you sinks in. That’s why we’re called to arm ourselves in Him. Some days, this world will pull your gaze to something more tangibly lovely, more welcoming than that age-old dance between Grace and Sin. Don’t forget, my love, even then. Don’t forget that the day you were born, Time could be heard as he breathed his last sigh, and then collapsed, satisfied, into you have arrived! That’s why hearts amass in beat-skipping eulogies each time you smile; you have an hourglass laugh filled with every grain shaped since Calvary. Don’t forget how, at the moment of your birth, shorelines across the earth were simultaneously filled with the sounds of rock defying ocean-tides that night, like the waters knew that they were holding to the foot of a miracle. That miracle was you. The first time you cried, your song set the darkness ablaze. The first time I held you, I could feel a heat emanating from the hearth that God set in place of your heart. I knew then that you would be a flame, but flames can sometimes be too fierce for loved ones to linger in so, when they are burnt by you, when your tears induced by what you have done threaten to douse your spirit, I will pray for you. Though I have never seen an angel, I’ll pray that they swarm to you like bees to a bottle-brush tree and when they do, I’ll pray that they make a sanctified honey of you. That way, when you go back to sooth the hearts you have singed, they’ll find themselves stuck on you. And when you completely envelope them, they will know what it means to live in the spirit.

Baby girl, mama loves you, you are so strong. Sometimes, when I talk to God about who you might become about the mistakes you’ll make and if they’ll look like mine, I smile because baby girl, mama knows that he’s got you. Trust me, when I was my mama’s baby girl, when I watched life leave her like the way to heaven was through her eyes and the doors were slowly closing, when her despair was a photograph of the baby girl that should have been sitting beside me, when I watched her do the math; She made three of us, meant to watch three of us grow and throw ourselves at His feet, but He welcomed one of us home one lifetime too soon. Then there were two of us, desperately trying to untie the noose that baby sister baby girl’s absence offered to her neck, when mama left, He never did. And when I shook my arms, trying to sever myself from Him, He filled my arms with you. So, when I think of your life, and of how many mistakes you might make that look like mine, I smile because he’s got me too. Sometimes, He will speak to you in ways that take years to understand, but He will show you, in time, what the whisperings mean. So, though I know that you –like me- will stay up all night trying to dissect dreams, I’ll tell you anyway to let go. Live free, but don’t misconstrue what that means- baby I want you to know Jesus. He is the standard to live by. Guard your heart, like He tells us to, but take risks too. You will never know how far love can stretch if you don’t. Grace means that we get to try again and again so, when you make that mistake, the one that spells not good enough in cracked fragments of mirror, know that God doesn’t give up on us for anything. Darling, don’t you see? You are far more precious to Him than you are to me and to me you are everything. So pick yourself up when life knocks you down, when days taste like failed tests, like scraped knees and no friends, like burning closets and cobwebbed rooms like nobody understands and being all alone with nowhere to go- not even home, like no missed calls after 3 suicide tries, like what’s your name again? with more than a hint of spite, like overdosing on heartbreak and substituting air with numbness, love with fear, joy with pain. Baby girl, pick yourself up, lift those eyes to the hills and try again.

Baby girl, mama loves you, you are so precious. One day, you’ll fall inlove and you’ll get hurt. You’ll discover how heart break has a way of making it hard for you to breathe and all at once you’ll realise the mistake in wishing for someone to take your breath away, but you’ll be okay. Better if you learn to embrace how much heartbreak can re-focus heart things. See, heart strings can make a beautiful sound if only you find a musician who knows how to play. So keep tuning yourself to the Word and he’ll come along with all the right compositions to make that heart of yours sing. At last, baby girl, don’t ever give up on poetry. It’s the lung that kicks in when life knocks the wind from you. You will write about so many things, in some ways poetry will give you courage. In others it will take courage to write that poem. Keep writing. Pens will always be beautiful to you; use them as spades to dig up the ink stuck just beneath the surface of that next blank page. Ask your questions there. Find your answers there. Let poetry be your roadmap to constellations of dreams and let scripture be your compass. Together, they will navigate you away from black holes and solar-flares to a life hand-sculpted by the sculptor of you.

At last, baby girl, know that there isn’t anywhere I would rather be, than here, with you.