You learn to tell the direction of the wind
during your walks by the side of the gravel road,
and that streams are running taps
where a cow and a boy might come to drink at the same time.
You also learn that a girl’s hips are a good resting place for your hands,
and that kissing her for a long time by the river leaves you with memories
that remain long after she is no more,
shoved against a wall by an angry boyfriend years later,
to die in a government hospital.
And since her name was Nomvula,
you remember that one day on the mountain you saw the rain coming
and outran it.
But nobody believed that you could outrun the rain.
Back from the township
The houses are arranged like carriages.
A thrown stone falls into the neighbour’s yard.
There’s a pattern there. A straight line.
Here, our homes are disjointed,
and our roads take the shape of our dreams:
winding and not promising any destination.
There, I played in the streets.
Kicked the ball with friends on the tar road.
Played for hours until the street lights came on.
Then went and took a shower when I was done.
The water fell on my head like raindrops.
Here, I have to kneel over a zinc basin
and scoop up the water with my hands.
What a coincidence that my township is divided into wards,
that our homes stand one beside the other like hospital beds,
that so many of us die here,
that the goal is to make it out alive.
These three poems are from All The Places, the debut poetry collection of Musawenkosi Khanyile, published in 2019 by uHlanga, a poetry press based in Cape Town, South Africa, committed to publishing new, experimental and classic works of southern African poetry.
Readers can purchase All The Places via African Books Collective.
Image credit: Nick Mulgrew.
This is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.