POEM: Slip Top

BY KHANYA MTSHALI

I saw a woman drop a briefcase holding her life together
She hissed at the contents on the floor
Wished they would pick themselves up
And return to where they belonged.
The floor broke itself open,
swallowed the briefcase whole.
The woman collapsed
so the floor could caress her body.
She turned on her belly
Clicked her back
Banged her head
And waited for the floor to disappear.

POEM: in case you were keeping score

BY DINIKA GOVENDER

one
suitcase lies on the bedroom floor, still packed from a trip a year ago.
it now operates as a wardrobe
where contingencies are stored

two
the degrees of separation from the me that I could be
to the me that I must be
– with the me we think I must be getting in the way

three
the number of potential mistakes I met whilst waiting for a double on the rocks
– which is also where you’d find the relationship between my thoughts and actions of late.
on the rocks

four
pieces to make a whole secret-recipe chicken, as well as the size of a perfect family
– except when it splits
and four walls become eight and one pillow becomes two

five
the repayment, in days, on a loan called Weekend that everyone must pay,
save for those who don’t – who are untitled and entitled
or quite simply won’t

six
– of one, half a dozen of the other is what he says
when two things are the same
but actually when two things are inconsequential to him

seven
the number of months it’s taken me to undress myself
of bleached dreams
and spandex goals

eight
the kilometres I can run before my lungs start to burn and my eyes begin to sting
– not from the cold air
– but from trying to run forward in time

nine
the age of our umbilical cords before they got cut
and no one really told us what happened to them
– so we grew up in search of a lifeline

ten
the list i am trained to top
along with nine other kids who also work hard and obey rules
– and isn’t it a fine way of pigeon-holing the rest as fools

eleven
the perfect hour of every day when we can do anything, or nothing at all,
and no one should notice
because we stop measuring at ten – in case you were keeping score

POEM: Writing you small

BY MANTHIPE MOILA

My legs go numb at the news that you’re going to be a father
After ten months of learning how to breathe without you,
one and a half conversations are all it takes to clog my throat,
to send my whole system spiralling
My hands need somewhere to be

And so here I am – writing you small
writing you manageable
editing you tolerable
You are a poem now
I can manipulate out of you the sharp edges that scratch at me
I have the license to make you whatever shape I want
I can turn your cruelty against you, dip you in irony so complete
that you won’t be able to recognise yourself
I can tell myself that we were sentences long,
That, at best, a few pages ought to do us justice
I can turn us, all we were into a metaphor
that ends with this:

You have locked me into myself
I don’t open the mail anymore
I’ve sealed the windows shut with glue and paint
Locked all the doors
Made sure the keys are hard to reach
The curtains are drawn
Outside is only for near-starvation
Until then, I’ll make music to keep me company
I can make my own heat
I can make my own love

POEM: Conversations with the mirror

1.This forehead must go!
It reveals too much,
about my collision into life.

2. I could use a different skin,
one that doesn’t attract the moon,
and reflect the stars.

3.Why is my voice bright?
It should bow in passivity,
what activism could it fashion?

4.I should definitely smile more,
so that my face doesn’t offend.
Most pretty girls smile, don’t they?

5. What use are these big eyes,
that flower fuzzy photographs,
and demand a mediator.

6. Mom, these weeds of doubts
are an inheritance I resent,
I’d have preferred your nose,

7. Instead I have dad’s nose,
a protruding prominence,
I want it scrapped off.

8. I must learn a vanishing act
slim down to a polite size
Less waist, weight, wasted space