Monday, February 3, 2014

THE MOUTH THAT COOKS

For whom do you shatter
And when
Do you decide which man
To sit on the floor for
The book says cleave, it says abandon your father
And your mother you worry less about
She doesn’t own a face
And has taught you all your life to leave
That it is rebellion enough here to eat, first
The mouth that cooks, swallows last
And you cling
To your last name as though you would get to keep it
No need to look up
When the man who marries you
Will come one day unannounced
Gather witnesses to whom you may say no
Try it, there are stages easier to conquer
Than strangers who know your father’s ways
Say no, try it and watch them
Trade gifts for your sanctity anyway
You are precious, duct tape and sand
You peel and stick were you are sent
Your youth has taught you to make mud pies
To eat dirt, laughing
Despite yourself your education is thorough
Someone always has an open mouth here
A hand raised
Ready to teach
Perhaps praying for rain
Either way you are grateful
A temporary wetness
To hide your face and tide your sins over
There is no bathroom here to lock yourself 
Hysterical, into
So cry when it rains
You are parchment
Someone else's story is always being told
No wonder your face is a thin mountain
Of broken planes
Rain is a gem here
Where the land is as much desert 
As the world is water
So cry when it rains
Still your burden
Is leavened by night
Later, when you wake with the dream
Still a soliloquy on your tongue
Do not show off how light your load is
You whose pants are stuffed
Inside the bag you almost left at some
Middle of nowhere petrol station
Where the bus stopped and you returned
Suddenly in your Sunday skirt and with your head
Wrapped colourful
Poems are easier to remember
Than this, a million ways to be correct
And your body splits in all the wrong places
Your boyish thighs too easily fall apart
At the memory of denim
Your back misses a chair
Your lips say doo not du
The woman who brought fattening herbs
To your mother, for you, laughs
And touches you without asking
And you just remember
To smile nothing
Too soft, she whimpers
Distraught at the absence of calluses
You are incensed because you want to be good
At everything, even this
Though you do not really care
The way no one here cares about lullabies
The city sings you, those midnight whistles
Can only be heard by dogs, and women
Whose boots are longer than their skirts
The ones who sleep with everyone’s husband
And go to bed alone and you
Cannot admit that you know this song
Know urban royalty, boys who know no kraals
That you have seen the emperor’s old thing
Waving in place of his rumoured clothes
To see freedom you must seek it
But before you catch a whiff of it
There is corn to pound
Chafe to blow into the wind
Some child to jar to sleep against your spine
Before you see its shadow
There is a bucket to carry
Water to fetch
For the men who come with their dust
As though their noise were gold
You fetch a bowl of water and food
You practice how to shatter
Bend both knees
And all the women clap
At how beautifully you fall
Far away from here you meet
A boy who says stay
The way you are
So you leave because no man
With sons worth bearing would dare
Not ask you to change
Janus, your daughters' worlds are mouths
They fall in full of hope
That some mother somewhere
Knows enough to teach her son

What to eat and how much to leave behind

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