Abdullah Ibrahim/Toni Stuart

 

 

for the first mother: a litany

 

O Mother of two skins

O Mother of betrothal and betrayal

O Mother of two sins

O Mother of ash and animal fat

 

O Mother praying to two gods

                                 who did you pray to, kneeling in the church?

                                 who did you pray to, kneeling at the cairn?

 

O Mother of lust and love

O Mother bent by men’s dreams

O Mother of undiagnosed despair

 

O Mother praying to two gods

                                 did you remember to pray for us?

 

O Mother disowned

by the people who birthed you

O Mother un-mothered

O Mother disowned

by the people who raised you

O Mother of brokenness

O Mother disowned

by the people you birthed

O Mother forgotten

O Mother, against your skin compassion never brushed

O Mother

O Mother

 

O Mother praying to two gods

                                 did you remember to pray for yourself?

 

O Mother of our lost wildness

O Mother, keeper of our buried voices

                                          unearth them for us

O Mother of our smouldering rage

                                          set fire to us

O Mother of our forgotten wounds

                                      weep with us

 

 

 

i am warm but shivering and

 

we stand like this

in prayer for a moment

 

i still don’t understand

how eyes can be blue

but they peer into my fear

 

Eva, a murmur of a question

he drags out the ‘E’, almost singing

my name… Krotoa,

 

i bite his bottom lip

chew it gently

teeth always know when to bite

 

hands cup     tongues probe

 

how hair can be so soft

soft as down in my palm

 

hands strip clothes                                     

hands strip skin

 

of clothes

 

***

 

the sand is still

with the memory of us

 

there is no stretch of this land

that has not been witness to my story

 

 

 

Robben Island

 

I deserted

 

I don't enjoy it here

squatting on this island

looking picturesque and mythical

                                     - Siren Song, Margaret Atwood

 

even the south-easter stays away now

 

but her curves rove and return to shore.

look how she conspires with moon

 

to soften the appearance of her folds.    

no one speaks of her barrenness

her vast, unending nothingness

 

stealing men away to their dreams

luring them further and further until

 

she seduces them across her hips

always trying to make herself fertile.

give me her fluid coaxing and

 

i will crash against his stone body

lure him back into this once warm love.

 

when his back is turned in sleep

i will sing a strangle of notes

against the granite of his limbs:

 

lapping lapping crashing and receding and

crashing lapping until he is shaped only by my will.

 

but no, the hips of her horizon held more sway

 

 

II. liquescent 2

 

the wind would hurt me

I have to bite myself before I'll heal.

                              - Change in Me, Kelwyn Sole

 

 

slow slink of skin stretch of tongue soft against unreachable swathe of skin stretch of

tongue, tonguing unreachable swathes of skin such sin such sin against skin, thin, and

tongue fat and thick against skin sinning against skin sinning tongues stretching slow

sliding soft on silent swathes of skin and mouths suckling mouths suckling secret nipples

 

 

lust is the only room in the body

to which men entrust their honesty

 

there are no homes to be found

in the rooms made by men’s arms and legs

 

 

                      stretch of tongue soft                against unreachable              skin stretch of

tongue, tonguing                                 sin  sin against skin,                  

 

against skin sinning                     sinning tongues

 

silent                                  mouths suckling                          nipples

 

 

the moon spits in my face, laughs

at my desire to become liquid like her

 

 

III foresight

 

they say I am the reason the wind no longer blows

the Koina say I am the reason the seasons stand still

the Dutch say I am the reason the ships stand still

 

now I am Eva in my garden, deserted

now I am Krotoa wrapped in a kaross of no warmth

only Heitsi-Eb! knows what is to come:

 

my children will turn the silence of their backs

to me, De Klerk, Kruger, Smuts will all deny

the sweetness of my name in their blood.

 

 

 

These three poems are from a larger collection entitled Krotoa-Eva’s Suite – a cape jazz poem in three movements.

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