Tjawangwa Dema


1. Tonight

Tonight there will be no poets in no café To speak the blood to green from red With sweet words and turbaned hair To amuse and wipe out the news you heard Me, I quit that poetry thing Two lines ago, one love before These days I sing

2. The art of listening

The man on the balcony of the company’s sixth floor Says he knows the secret to life Everyone laughs Teething vultures biting at the wind Tie askew Everyone wishing they knew What had freed him from the shackles they still clung to He leaps Back arched Perfect stance Arms wide Phones flash The earth shakes The wind rises knowing there is nothing Not a thing but it to break his fall No one laughs Not one Not anymore

3. dreams

Dreams are evil I prefer nightmares They show you what goes on in here Reflects what goes on out there Dreams lie They lead you down a path Where white chocolate flows undammed And mulberries fall unshaken from the trees Nothing is less faithful Less real Or more untrue than a dream And does every waking moment have to be so hard I am tired of spending sleepless nights Chasing hesitant tomorrows biding my time Just to spend it mending broken things That have no wish to be fixed I will not spin and spin inside this skin I will not mourn a future I never had I refuse to bleed myself For an almost reality rooted in the distant echoes Of a once familiar voice Chanting I know I can, I know I can Because I know I can Be the girl I am right now Live the life I have right now Choose to be the dream I am in right now Maybe then it won’t be so hard Just to dream right now


Ssshh listen to her But no one does and like you I thought I saw her in art exhibition once All black and white grayscale shots that hid the hunger in her eye behind the cameras reflection And I thought, I thought she must be beautiful As though that were all there ever was A pretty smile not a hungry mouth A small waist never an empty belly Belle of the ball even Sade must not have met this queen because she too is worthy of her own lullaby Own bittersweet number one hit Except there’s no room here for sorrow We just go on same as before Because someone We can’t quite remember who but someone Promised salvation is near And we’ve been told God gave us these ears so we could hear That salvation is near She never says this out loud Never says this load is not mine to carry This load is too heavy to carry Instead she gets up, wakes the dawn And bathes reflection of self Dark eyed light of her mother’s life Cradles young one on back and walks out back straight To her little corner of hell She’s raising her young one sweet at a time Living from hand to mouth were a thebe literally means life She’s been married to poverty for what feels like forever Been so long since anything felt right, pure, clean, easy That she can’t even remember ever She’s been eighteen for ten years and still counting Innocence lost two babies ago Like it can be found, Reclaimed within the ice barely keeping cool her chosen produce for the day And not in her children’s eyes It’s seeped into her skin, brown murky reality has It’s in the way she no longer desires what’s not hers She no longer says this load is not mine to carry This load is too heavy to carry Street vendor sings sweet, sweet melody Periodically life bends her through its own bittersweet melody In her world your reality is a joke, love a yoke that chokes Till she forgets to laugh So she barters with her God daily No diamonds on this wish list Some choices are easier to make than others Like bread and milk, bread for milk, bread or milk That comes with no fist because on her street the women still gather and meet To count calories to feed their young ones empty bellies With sun baked promises fulfilled on backstreets and hidden alleys Not for fame or fortune These women have never met either Not for glory neither They simply sell what they have and when there is nothing left they sell who and what they are So today there will be no Sky Blue, CNN endorsement of this beat Only this poetry from Africa’s streets There are no timekeepers here No hi I’m home dear Just life One heartbeat at a time sssh If you listen carefully you just might hear this nightingale speak Might dare to hear the streets weep sweep this vendor’s melody As life continues to bend her through its own bittersweet broken melody, me lody, me lo dy

5. Seven o’clock news: FREE BONDAGE

Dear Africa I write to you from what used to be the safety of my bedroom I am looking for my husband Patrick Last seen boarding a bus in Harare for Joburg To carry back our son Farai who lived and worked amongst some people For some time doing something somewhere in the south If you have any information any information at all Please, please come forward This poem is not political I repeat, this poem is not political But fact prevails were sanity fails Because 400 years ago there were those who died For having dared to dream that they could read and eat and breathe and be like you Yet 400 hours ago there are those who died for having dared to be On the earth they were Spoke the tongues they did Birthed the sons they hid Beneath fallen breasts sucked dry Of blood and oil and rock and milk I did not mean that this poem was not real Just that it must not sound social or sexual, political or emotional Personal let alone human In turn my words have no complexion I repeat my words have no complexion Yet they are just real And for you that leaves but one question Have you ever seen God on CNN? I’ve only ever seen someone else’s definition of Him Yet I’ve seen Yahweh, Jehovah, Modimo, Mwali, God, Allah in the eyes of Iraqi Somali, Zimbabwean Malawian mothers wrapping black, brown, yellow gold precious babies in afghans seeped in the red of the siblings before them Africa in this century we move, we move from earth to mars Change Universal laws and say what once was no longer is Still we move from breaking backs to breaking silent bonds Written before we were born Humanity is sacred I tell you I come sent to remind you Humanity is you and you, its me, it’s beyond boundaries, and colours and yesterdays worries Over rent and pride, stars and stripes, twenties and tens Mounds of earth moved to dig deep to build stadiums built in the shape of a coil for something as crudely consumable as oil Not a seen from the eyes of those in free bondage They scream This is the age of bonds and credit, cards and cash to finance your dash of personal slavery Watch while I dance to the music of broken chains Listen we moved sssshh we moved from chains on hands and feet To imprisoning our hearts and minds I ask you now is this it Is this the freedom for which so many valiantly fought and others thought humanity no longer sought Humanity is sacred because it is you and I, Humanity is sacred because it is you and I, Humanity is sacred because humanity is sacred, And the next time you look to your CNN, SABC, DS M or B TV look for the God and the good in you and me Because humanity is still searching, searching for my husband Patrick We are silently searching for any remnants of peace, peace, peace, please

6. Just because

Because I know you are going to ask Where the flowers are I have picked roses red and sweet Left them by the wayside for the birds to eat Because I know you are going to ask Where the sweets are I have made you halwa these hands Stirred and then spilt what was yours Because I know you are going to ask Where I am I have long left the place I was To walk slow between the trees Where your greedy eye cannot reach me