choreographies of the soft palette part i & ii

by kopano maroga 

part (i)

one night, in fitful sleep, I awoke clutching my chest as my airways constricted. my mother rose from sleep with the hand of god to pull me from my death bed and drive me and my brother to the hospital in deepest night. the doctors told me that I was a few minutes from seeing the other side of that river Jordan. my mother, not knowing how to drive, attributed god for guiding her hand that night. i’ve begun to think that god must be a black mother: who better knows what it means to birth a child into the world doomed for death? who better to give breath to this eternal undying?

i’ve been day dreaming of blood again

river run red vertical gashes through my earth brown wrists

making a noose from which the soil holds me upside down


 i’ve been getting my mouth dirty with all this double speak

there is no place more filled with gilded lies

than a university lecture theatre

the way we weave lily-white paper into sheets to cover black bodies

like cadavers in the morgue

even in death our bodies are still their puppets

even in death whiteness resurrects us unbidden

and makes us bojangle, madiba jive for them

until its appetite for humiliation is quenched

speak about social justice as if our words

are not eulogies over the many, many bones

these ivory towers have made tombstones of

this living graveyard

this sacrilegious mausoleum

where still

their names escape us

and still their murderers sit, contemplatively with their boots on our necks

blvckness is the continual catch in the windpipe

nation of emphysematic seraphim

born to bring heaven on earth

at the sacrifice of our night sky cherubim

 part (ii)

 to speak blvckness

for me

is to give birth to the stillborn traumas of air

to shape words that lie flat and constricted against the sepulcher

of my soft palette

to bastardize and desperately try to materialize

this heirloom that can find no comfortable mantle

within the carefully tortured annex of my mouth

 sometimes the choked enunciations of my mother tongue

are noose enough to hang on

breathless and homeless

landless and dispossessed

the topographies of my mouth are as expropriated as the gaping


from which the minerals of africa are extracted

the migrant labour of language

the reaper of death collecting corpses

from the threshold of my lips

like so much strange fruit