I knew the kind of woman I wanted to love me when I used to see my grandmother get ready for church. She was a Catholic you see. Black skirt, polished shoes, purple sleeves and acres of hope in her eyes. She used to put on her head wrap as if she was going for a job interview with god. These days all is residue. She tells me that hope is older than god. Sometimes I hear her in the mornings when she thinks we are still sleeping, praying as if she still has a direct line up there.
When I was a kid I stood in front of my class two years in a row telling them what I wanted to be. An artist, an architect, a soccer player, a poet. But those dreams are all gone. I did not abort them you see, they were merely kidnapped and after waiting long enough I eventually surrendered to the darkness and forgot to look for them under my bed. In the night I slept with the feint wariness of a child and awoke-1-2-3-Message deleted
I fear that nobody ever knows what I am talking about
The only Afrikaans word I am incapable of forgetting is piesang. Because one of my black female classmates once got the pronunciation wrong. We all laughed at her, a few days later she reached her limit and didn’t come back to school. Years later I rode in a taxi with her, I think she didn’t recognize me or maybe pitied me for having not changed. Sometimes other people are the mirror that shows you what petty gestures you are made of.
Rubble is one of my favorite words. It not only reminds me that something is gone. It assures me that something was there. And I wanna touch the rubble, I wanna remember every day that I have been happy but all I am is facebook statues and rants-a mountain of wants.
Sometime after midnight you make the wrong decisions. Strange things have been happening these days. All I want to be is normal but a survey of my dreams this past year reveals I am anything but. I only dream of apples, Tumi and being Ayn Rand’s lover. A table-dancer in various grey and orange coloured robes-convinced of her own importance. A writer who is only my friend online and when he needs favours. I encounter them all. The hardest thing in life is to pretend you know more that you actually do. It was not God nor was it suicide but it was the cruelty of life that killed Dylan Thomas. And what are we if not utilitarian.
Mina Maboja she is my person. We discuss everything but don’t talk about much. I tell her I am broken. She says in the absence of god Zadie Smith will have to suffice. We laugh uncontrollably at the inevitability of it all. I remember the day I held her breasts so firmly in my hand I was like Hiro Nakamura attempting to travel through time. Many of us wake up most days to find that our heroes are in other places.
I remember watching Oprah for the first time on our twitchy black and white television. I laugh at how I remember her as wearing green.
I am not known for lack of clarity so let me say-I cried last time Real Madrid won the champions league, I never liked Brenda Fassie or Lebo Mathosa. I am still trying to download KB’s rock lefasthe on the net and my favourite foods are pasta or breyani. The kind with the little piece of wood that my mother makes-the same pieces of wood that twenty years later I still cannot name or eat.
Zama. It took them two days to find an appropriate way to tell me she was gone. On some days I think of her and instead of writing a poem I quench the night and eventually reach the bottom of Zakes. And even here there are many ways of dying. But none of them consider what will become of those who survived.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard Dilla was gone.
I am sure a boom or two exploded in Baghdad that night. I would have sent an olive branch but I was too busy mourning my own loss. Do not forget me.
I am an inappropriate guest at funerals. That is why I have only ever attended three. As weeping women comfort their children I am the person in the room asking them what really did they expect?
The encroaching sun in all its beauty remembers the crop of only a few. Everybody else only gets sunburn. And it is here that I close my eyes and try to remember love and its consequence of light.
So there is there story about a woman who had a miscarriage after seeing her fiancé get shot at a busy intersection by the special branch. I am not sure if I made it up or if the images compelled me so much that eventually the narrator fades into the darkest corners of my mind.
Nas and all his unreleased albums.
Meryl Streep and her awesome thank you speeches.
Andre 3000 is the best artist to feature on a song. Bun B is a rapper’s rapper
I have my reasons for not listening to Eminem’s Mockingbird. Oliver Hermanus is working on a bible epic.
Entire newsroom style guides are being developed for a single news story.
Detox is not coming-T-shirt brands
Street photographers and their mohawked lovers-release me
I have a diploma in journalism and will be graduating Cum Laude for my B-Tech in April. I have written articles for so called ‘credible publications’ and spoken at international gatherings. Yet that did not stop her from rolling up the window of her car when she saw me standing at the traffic light. To her I am just another threat.
I don’t care how pretty a young lady is, I don’t give up my seat in a taxi or a bus based on how beautiful you are. I only give up my seat for old people. And I must express that sometimes if the so called old person is white I do take a moment cause I know the black people will judge me and be like ‘uncenga abelungu lo awumbuke.” But fuck it we live it up anyway.
The truth just sounds different and sometimes you get so old you start to believe your own lies.
My favourite blog is dead and I think someone should write a short story called ‘The secret history of trench coats.’
I know what it’s like to take an offramp into a road that leads to punctured tyres and doubts about where god and his friends could be.
You signed a facebook petition to get Pussy Riot out of jail. I read Morgan Freeman memes in his own voice. Old habits are not like hearts you see, they are hard to break.
There is a difference between being a good man and being man that is not as best as the rest don’t ask me which one I am cause I am trying my best to get it right this time around.
The only sure thing I told myself as a kid was that I wanna be a father-a damn good father. Because I don’t want my kids to grow up like me and my friends. I was 14 the first time I saw a happily married couple-I don’t want my children to have to wait that long.
At this point I feel it necessary to speak of the one that I love. I often speculate what it was like the day they made you. Hazel coloured atom bomb pupils. Mine is a heart wanting to be open but closed off. Like my sore eyes struggling to adjust to the morning light.
I remember you saying lack of sincerity is the biggest challenge of our generation. Telling me to read to stop fucking around and read more books. You said our skin is louder than bombs. I looked at their ugly faces and told them ‘Your kind beauty makes me sick!’ They shook their heads as if the only thing they were scared of was Ricki Lake. I felt angry, as angry as Jennifer Aniston every time she hears the words Brangelina or adoption. I went home, tried to bake a chicken and mushroom pie for you but I failed. Do you remember the recipe? What made it all go so sour? Days later I was thinking, I could have been, I could have been- but instead I became. I once told you I think you were born in a cubicle, I suspect I was not too far from the truth. I have been noticing all the cat videos posted by your classmates on Facebook. What is there left to say about a poet who is dead? They called you an institution and left you at the footsteps of this sanctuary. You didn’t have the liver or the will to carry you home. As frustrated as Guns n’ Roses, all you took to remember me by were the pictures we took next to places without names. You did it to remember me only as disappearing. That summer was good to us until you took a wrong turn and cursed at the Canadian tourists for taking in Brandon Huntley. The legitimacy of you arrest did not make you happy or increase the number of people calling you and asking how you are. I don’t think you ever forgave me for that. You watched your happiness evaporate until all that was left were thin layers of fat and hundreds of senseless journals. I imagine that these days your breath must smell something like Janelle Monae’s underwear. It’s not comforting to know I am an en route to death. You too had no way of knowing, the only evidence available to you was mere newspaper articles and clinical studies. It was on the corner of Metallica and Drowning pool that you finally took of your cool and reached your limit-you disappeared into a dark hole. The last thing thought you held in your head was that memory of Sandra Oh singing ‘Like a virgin.’
The first time I kissed you your face smelt like cocoa butter and tears
I am also a failed poet and every week I spend a few minutes of my time discrediting my poetician friends because I don’t wanna be reminded of what I could have been, what I wanted to be and what other people actually are. I am afraid someone is gonna have a miracle when they realize I keep a secret stash of poetry books and videos-each one I turn to every time you leave. I do not speak about the day you kissed me on the cheek and brought Jericho back down with your lips. I am an atom bomb, an exploding Iliad. The 13th witness-a pounding headache
You tell me you love me and I can see right through your skin. Your words as organic as a transplant donor’s heart. But other times, other times I get scared and start to imagine things that did not have the decency to happen to us. Like the time you took three buses across town, 11o’clock at night arrived at my doorstep and broke down crying. Screaming ‘Mumiya should not be in jail, and I can’t believe Kelis and Nas got a divorce.’ I knew then that this would take a while. And that was the night I would have told you how much John Mayer means to me. And how much I wanna be with you. And how much I still wanna be around when they make post stamps and name streets after Thandiswa Mazwai. And how I would write a 1000 letters to you darling, most of them saying the same things and others reminding you how you laughed at me when I told I still write poems about you. Then distance would become relative, love would be a verb, the clichés would fit and neither of us would have to worry about dying alone.
14 February 2013 and I am the deepest shade of blue
Thandiswa. Nomvula, Fezile and Ntando those are the names we had settled on and much later we amended them to include Lebogang and Palesa. What happened to them seems like a small scar compared to what happened to us.
I want to apologise that you and I have never made love in the dark, these are merely the consequences of loving a man with a genetic fear of losing people.
I imagine our daughter baring her soul for her lover at a poetry session the way I did for you that Friday night and you weren’t there, and all I wanna do is sleep left side pressed firmly against my pillow so I cannot hear my own heart break. There are many poems about you, too many of them are like this. And your voice, your voice is like a boobie trapped house and I am caught between being a dead man and the door.
And then there are regrets. Like the girl I didn’t call, the one who shared a cab with me between Smith and St thomas. Grabed a pen and scribbled her number in my notebook like a poem, saying baby float to me.
I have been in love four times I cannot keep doing this to myself or them
I never told you about 1999 and seeing my grandfather whom I had just meet standing in his living room. Armed with a can of Sprite in his hand, swaying to Kind of Blue. I did not get it then. Only ten years later and by then it was all too late. Miles Davis still pulls me into a loop as John hits the loneliest note on that song, the anger devours and breaks itself into two. In my heart there are only two things-silence and noise and the distance in between often feels too much like mere sentiment
Wine and pie
There is a special section in hell reserved for everyone who will read this. Sometimes the words get to close. Go ahead damn it, change your mind. I promise you my friend if you are here we are gonna go in and we are gonna get free.
Writer: Sihle Mthembu Photography: Mxo Mathe