Admiration Can Be Violent Too: An Emerging Artist’s Notes on Visibility.

I think I have the energy and vocabulary to talk about this today.

I wanted to start this with a quote by Vuyelwa Maluleke, but I can’t find the quote, so I’ll try and paraphrase what she said because she summed up all of my feelings in one facebook status. In the status, she basically told people who consider themselves ‘fans’ to stop feeling entitled to the person whose work they admire. I am sure there are many versions of this, and articles and and and. But Vuyelwa’s words strung a chord with me because they came at a time I was struggling with a guilt I had been feeling, a guilt caused by toxic messages people had been leaving in my inboxes,  messages at the time I did not see as toxic, but as ‘admiration’, ‘support’ and positive ‘attention’.  When you are emerging and celebrated, no one warns you about the toxicity in hyper-visibility. Haha. Let me tell you now. It’s a blessing and a bitch. And it wears many costumes, beguiling and attractive ones, But the one I’ll try and tackle here is: ADMIRATION!

A few days ago I had to address a rather intense and awkward situation with an ‘admirer’. I won’t get into details about this particular situation, because the person is a colleague and acquaintance too, and the matter is still unresolved. In hindsight, my response to this person may have been harsh, but I think my response at the time stemmed from my being gatvol of the many incidences that keep popping up with ‘admirers’ both in public and private spaces (private here being inboxes or one on one encounters). Lying on my bed this afternoon and reflecting on The FEES MUST FALL poetry session which took place last night, which was so lit by the way, I remember an encounter I had with someone at the session, an incident that may seem like not so big of deal for the person who claimed to be an ‘admirer’ of my work and for those who were standing around us at the time.

The scenario:

I am standing outside; there are a bunch of people milling about, having a smoke, chatting etc. Person x is drunk or tipsy (I get the sense from how loud and ungovernable he was) fine. whatever. be drunk and ungovernable, actually live your best life whilst being ratchet, we all must.  I endorse it 100%. Person x comes over and asks for a hug, I give him one. He proceeds to want to talk to me about what is currently happening in his life,  I am genuinely interested and I want to engage him, but he was too loud and I was scared the noise would make its way inside and disrupt the session, so i say to him we’ll talk later or during the interval, he says he wants to hug me again and comes in for one, I say but I have already given you one, plus I am wearing white and I don’t want this wine to spill on my top. He proceeds to tell me how much he ‘admires and loves me/my work’ I say thank you and try to make my way inside. Then we go back and fourth for another a minute/two with ‘Him: I want to hug you again, I love your work. Me: No. Plus I don’t want the wine to spill on my top. You are going to make me spill the wine.’ and at some point in between all of that the wine spills on the floor (like. it was bound to). Now I am slightly irritated,  but I shrug it off and have a giggle with the people I was standing with. I then turn around and say to a friend, what is it about me, that invites this kind of shit EVERY TIME! This afternoon I think about my use of the word ‘invite’ and how fucked up that word choice was because people’s lack of boundaries or respect for other’s people’s bubble or ‘no’should not be something i take responsibility for.

Reflecting on this incident today took me back to many other incidences like this. These are all recent:

  1. I am leaving the theatre the other night, a colleague/acquaintance comes up to me and says “I really love your work’, sometimes I just want to fuck you and have you say poems to me while I do.” I stood there for a good minute shook and confused. I then said ‘wow…ok’, not really sure what to say. He then moved on to talk about the show we saw, and I said I have to get home. I remember needing to take a shower that night quite desperately.
  2. I arrive at a poetry session/also declared as a conscious space. I was scheduled to perform later in the evening. One of the organizers offers to get me a drink. 5 minutes later, she brings me and my partner at the time a glass of wine. A few minutes later this womxn comes up to us and greets us quite politely (I pick up that she is slightly tipsy). She does the whole admiration of my work spiel. I say thank you. She leaves. The evening continues. I perform. I come off stage. The womxn returns and says thank you for the performance, she is tipsier now, I say thank you for coming etc etc. She then asks if she can have a sip of my wine, I say “I can get you a glass”, she says no she wants a sip of mine. I say “ok. actually take the whole glass, I’ll just get myself another glass”.  she says no, she wants to share one with me…my (then) partner laughs. I give her (the tipsy womxn) the glass and get up to get another one. Moments later, ughel returns and takes my glass out of my hand without my permission and starts sipping on my wine. I say “excuse me?” and strus god, her response was, ” Koleka, oh  my God, I really love you, and your work….I want to know where you live, I want to come over and do your laundry, I want to wash your underwear” still sipping on MY WINE!  I still remember her response so vividly because my partner and I visited that encounter often after that. After a few minutes of telling usisters why she had been problematic, my partner intervenes and at some point it comes out that she is my partner…Ughel then starts to rub my partner’s thigh while complimenting her. My partner and I left immediately. I later learned that this womxn is as ‘conscious’ and as ‘lit’ as they come. But caba sana iconsciousness iyavanisha xasinxilile.
  3. Another tipsy case with another lit and conscious sister. I am at a poetry event, a womxn comes up to me, she pulls me outside and starts telling me about how much she is an admirer of my work (notice the pattern?). I say thank you. She then comes in for a hug without warning. I reciprocate. Because also I know how awkward I am and can be in such situations, so I never really know what is appropriate. After what seems like forever I pull away. She then starts caressing my face while repeating over and over how much she loves me. I pull away. I Leave the event immediately (I am now srarting to notice THIS PATTERN) I call a friend crying and not being able to really explain why.
  4. This is the last one because I can feel myself losing energy already just recounting these scenarios. But it feels like I have the vocabulary and the willpower to talk about this today, so I will, with the help of Miriam Makeba. So, Four: I decide to go to this party and twerk my face off because it’s been a long and draining week. I’m not one for turning up like that, so when I do I mean it. Like. Don’t mess with me when I have decided to go out and dance. Right. This party is at the sugar hut which is not necessarily one of my favorite hangout spots, actually I rarely go there. So you know this evening was an exception. I get to the Sugar Hut, and pay the door. My friend and I go to the bar to get a drink, 5 minutes later I hear someone screaming “WATER! WATER! WATER!” the first thing that comes to mind is “Shit! someone is choking to death or dying” second thought is “Damn someone must be really thirsty”. I continue to order a drink and this desperate plea for H2O moves closer and closer, within a minute, someone pats me on my back screaming “WATER! WATER! WATER!” in my ear. This person and I know each other, he could have just said Hi Koleka, or ‘Coco’ (the name I went by when being woke was not fashionable), So I turn around and ask him jokingly, Are you thirsty bruh, What’s happening?, he then says oh my God, water! You are here. I then say to him, you know my name is not water, why are you calling me that? I knew why, but I wasn’t about to condone or entertain it.  I then grab my drink and leave the bar.  About twenty minutes later I am on the dance floor with my friend and Mr WATER! Returns and starts dancing in my bubble screaming “Water! Water!” he then says….wait for it…wait for it…yes you guessed it….” I really ADMIRE YOUR WORK!” I can’t remember if I said thank you or if I just smiled and left. But I left the venue immediately after that because he just killed my whole vibe.

Here’s the thing. I can’t even begin to express to you how #WATER has changed my life,  it has been the craziest year. It has been blessed, challenging and beautiful. 80% of the doors that have opened for me I owe to #WATER (for real).  90% of how my life and politics has changed is because of #WATER. One day when I have the energy and vocabulary I will write about this too. So trust me I understand, I understand how #Water has/continues to move you…Even me babes. There is no other piece that holds me accountable and continues to pour into my life like #WATER. But You cannot, cannot, absolutely cannot and will not call me #WATER, or shout #WATER a million times in my ear while you are trying to grind with me during a turn-up… all because of admiration. What even is admiration in the face of disrespect and being fucky.

Listen. I also understand that we are all fucky shem. Each and every single one of us, particularly when we have had one or two, or smoked some. But I also know that self-control and respect, if it is genuinely part of your character, does not get diluted or lost in the process of getting drunk and so on. I also say this recognizing that I have behaved fucky a number of times with people I admire (and I have tried to rectify those situations or at least I think I have tried) because I don’t just expect those I admire/have admired to get over it or take it because they appear strong or “used to it”.

I remember seeing Lebo Mashile for the first time. I wanted to jump on her back and tell her I love her and her work like a gazillion times. She changed my life. She was one of the poets who inspired me when I started. So when I met her for the first time, my first response was not to sip on a drink she was having, it wasn’t to scream “I smoked a spliff with Jesus Christ” for 15 minutes in her ear in public or to caress her face in a creepy kind of way. I simply asked for a selfie, and an autograph and moved on with my life.  And thereafter in my spare time, I had fantasies of us becoming besties. But she didn’t need to be bombarded with all of that because it was mine.  Years later the universe would bring us together in a more organic and beautiful way, which I am grateful for. I’m sure she doesn’t even remember our first encounter. But I do. And I have held onto it because I “ADMIRED” and still do ADMIRE her a great deal.

Just because you have access to the people whose work you admire it does not mean you have the right to violate or infringe on their space however and whenever you want. It’s funny that 60% of these weird and ugly encounters have been with people I know, and have had multiple conversations and hung out with a few times.

There are many more incidences like this. Some have made me lock myself in bathrooms at events because I didn’t want to face these so-called fans that have no sense of boundaries. Some have made me come home tired and wishing I had responded differently, and I understand on some level the victim-perpetrator power dynamic that is at play here but knowing these things does not change the fact that we expect better from others and from those who should know better. Some of these incidences  have even made me want to stop sharing my work publically. And some have made me wonder if there is something about me that ‘invites’ these kinds of situations. Often, I want to say to people, it’s not me you are after, you have a connection with my work, and that’s beautiful, and I appreciate that. I am living my dream right now. There was a time I was praying for the days when I would share my work.  And those days are here and unraveling. But I don’t find this level of  human/artist consumption romantic,  affirming or flattering at all. It’s creepy and violent. Violence can come dressed as admiration too. Violence can come dressed as love, as praise, as oblivion, as a drunk ignorance that does not and will not take responsibility. Expectation and demanding someone’s attention and time despite their telling you ‘no’ or ‘wait’ is an act of violence. I am not obligated to answer to your email or inbox at your convenience. I am not obligated to hug you, in the same way, I am not obligated to hug that uncle at the family Christmas gathering.

We destroy and break the very people we claim we love/admire by consuming them in unrealistic and unhealthy ways. Drunk or sober we need to start being more conscious of our relationship with entitlement, power, and admiration.   A question that comes up a lot in interviews and QnAs is “How do you protect your space?” I love this question. But I also never know how to respond to it because I am still trying to figure out rituals and practical ways of surrounding myself with a light and armor in spaces loaded with all sorts of parasites. I have a squad of people who hold me down and fetch me from events when such things happen. Those people ground me. Those people are some of that light and armor. But whilst I figure this out, I need people to know that when you touch me in public without my consent, or grind up on me in a turn up, or send me an inbox calling me arrogant or a bitch because I didn’t respond in the time you wanted me to, or when you tell me ‘my poetry makes you want to fuck me’, understand that you are being violent. Understand that it’s not a compliment or flattering. It’s creepy. It hurts. It’s tiring. It’s not acceptable.

To be honest, I LOVE HUGS, you guys. I seriously love hugs and kisses. I am probably one of the most intimate and affectionate teddy bearicajl-humans you will ever meet, but these incidences are slowly building a wall that I cannot allow to make a home here. Because I really love hugs, I think Hugs are healthy for you. But don’t force a hug on me otherwise I will punch you in the face, that’s just where I am at right now. We can admire people and their work without making them feel like they are not human or visible. Your actions are not making me feel seen, actually it’s quite the opposite. When you don’t hear me or respect my space or resistance to your advances, you humiliate, dehumanize and make me invisible.  And surely you can’t admire something or someone you can’t see.

Engage me as a person first. Then as the poet/person you see on stage. I am not a mannequin you can toss your shit on or hump on or caress as you please. On the other side of these poems and dope punchlines there is an actual person who must sift through your violence masquerading as admiration.

‘oh dear god. please! not another rape poem.’

PREFACE

Some mothers set their daughters alight to keep their men warm. And some family members would rather describe the smoke than smell like it.

 

INTRODUCTION

Sometimes [hell] is a penis.

Sometimes [girls] repent just to save themselves from encountering the devil.

Sometimes [uncle] is a boyfriend. a random. a test you will keep taking but always fail.

Sometimes [uncle] is a siren in some living rooms.

Sometimes [uncle] is an aircon everyone is too lazy to adjust or switch off.

Sometimes [the daughters] are not left alone with him.

But he is not banned from family gatherings either.

Sometimes [collateral damage] is another way of saying:

I am a coward.

Your  cousins will put the body in the same sentence as:

Alleged

Consent

Culture.

Your cousins will say, say yes to that boy. Stop being funny.

Your cousins will ask if you are a lesbian.

You will say yes to the boy to prove that you are not.

 

BODY

Many things are cultural. Like:

Oppikoppi

All stars/Levis/Nike

Going to the theatre

Clothing

Black lipstick

 

Rape is not one of them.

 

It is not something you wear (voluntarily).

Or wash.

Or take off.

Or drop off at the laundry.

Or buy tickets to see.

Or an experience you are excited to tweet about.

Or a meme that goes viral.

Or something whites anticipate to appropriate.

Or a zol passed around at a bonfire.

Or salt at the dinner table.

 

CONCLUSION

Sometimes [forks scraping empty plates] have become a soundtrack for when that uncle enters the room.

Sometimes [nobody wants to do the dishes] until the secret slips.

Sometimes the women in the family would rather toil in the kitchen than crucify their [husbands or brothers or sons or respected elders].

Sometimes [hell is burning between their thighs too]

Sometimes [they can no longer find salvation in their vows]

But the gospel has taught them how to stay, even when the devil himself is the one promising eternity.

The girls burn. and burn. and burn, and burn.  but at least the boy children will have fireworks for new years eve: an escape.

Something to help everyone forget about the darkness Christmas sweeps in.

It’s easier to hold the [child] accountable for a ‘lie’ than it is to hold the [uncle] accountable for the truth.

[Some] Decembers are brutal.

The [children] play hide n seek and find [ghosts] in forbidden rooms.

The family is not interested in the nightmares they have thereafter.

Because.

Because.

Because

Who wants to have Christmas dinner with skeletons?

And anyway

They [the girls] were told, Hide n Seek is for heathens. And they [the girls] should not be out so late playing with the boys.

 

ADDENDUM

Somewhere.  a loud sigh finishes this with, ‘oh dear god, please! not another rape poem’

 

REFERENCE LIST/BIBLIOGRAPHY

Christmas Gatherings

Uncle So-and-So

Boyfriend #6

Inyamezelo

Imbokodorism

Proverbs 31

The book of Psalms

Wine

Black Solidarity

Yhuu! fok. Amadoda

The neighbours must never see your dirty laundry

What will people say?

It is the model school c school [we sent you to] that makes you talk back and spill our secrets like this.

#ItsTheNakedProtests

Mothers who love their daughters but…

Daughters who idealise their mothers

Excuses

Apologies

Vaginas without emergency signs

Vaginas without exit signs

mini skirts

Drunk girls

Campus

Hoes

Twerking

Slutty behaviour

Matric dance

Serving that uncle a glass of water.

Hug uncle

Greet uncle

Stop being funny

Stop being anti-social

Give uncle uh kiss

Sit on uncle’s lap…

Call Mr so-and-so Uncle.

Your reflections are a bomb in a world that says commit suicide quietly. Your Rant is Life. So Rant. And Post Blog Posts with really long titles. Who cares?

ONE:

I have reached the annoying age

Where I am asking too many questions about things

The family has worked hard at burying.

I have been drinking wine from the same wine glass for the past few days

My vagina is not the only thing that is bleeding

I’m a happy person

I keep telling myself

The sadness does not believe me

The sadness does not leave

I keep setting a day/date for my social media hiatus

I have just come back. I need to go away again.

I’m afraid of travelling

But I don’t know how to stay either

I’m itchy. And indecisive.

[Unlove the married somebody.]

I don’t know when I’ve become this transparent somebody

Home feels weird and loaded

I don’t want to be the person I have constructed here

I feel stupid

The last time I felt stupid was in high school

And first-year varsity

Academia has a way of making even the most brilliant people feel small

My cape is made of wounds and disappointment today

I don’t want to fly around and save other people or even myself in that

I don’t know if people would even take a flawed human who poses as a superhero seriously

We all see through each other

But we pretend like we don’t

We attend to the things that are less uncomfortable

All these rejection letters in my mail box are destabilising

I don’t feel like #blackgirlmagic or #slayage today

My periods are fucking with me

I keep blaming my impoliteness on jetlag

I want to go away for a bit

I need to leave my heart behind; it’s always causing trouble

They don’t tell you that when your heart breaks

It is not always because of people

This world is going to give me a heart attack

God.

I need to show up for me

My niece looks like my grandmother

These people really do come back in various forms

I was throwing my Gran in the air yesterday

I put my Gran to sleep yesterday

I dropped the phone on someone important earlier

I probably should backspace this free-write

I probably should edit this later

I probably shouldn’t post this either

I probably will and not know why

And possibly take it down a few hours later

I hope I am not this predictable

I have to do poems this weekend

I don’t want to do poems

Or I do

But I can’t look at my poems lately

I feel small

I feel insignificant and invisible

There is no manual for joy/self-love

Or getting yourself out of the gutter

Admitting that you really wanted that thing is hard

Dealing with not getting it is uh bitch

The tears are throwing a tantrum

And sitting stubbornly in my diaphragm and throat

Maybe I am exhausted

I have not unpacked my suitcase

Or tackled the to-do list

Admin is not good for insanity

On some level, we all suffer from some sort of dementia

“How can someone be so articulate and so inarticulate at the same time”

My mind keeps punishing me for that interview

I wish I could pull a Lazarus on the ones who have passed on in my life

I wish I were Jesus

Not for the miracles or resurrection juju

But for the privilege and legacy

And immunity

This country is a sewerage

Black people – more specifically black wom*n a are caught up in its shit

It’s not healthy you know, living in shit

And pretending like you don’t stink

All the time:  I’m fine!

We say.

Anyways

I need to read plays

Can I even direct?

Am I even a writer?

Self-doubt tied up in jetlag and menstruation is another kind of suicide

I should hike tomorrow

Or read a book somewhere quiet

I am a firm believer of hot showers, good company and good music

And taking it moment by moment

Silence is another kind of suicide

I appreciate the ones who allow me space and time

To indulge in the Blacklist and Orange is the new black

And ramblings about absolutely nothing

And everything important (to me)

I really love listening and twerking to Gospel music

But every time I get into feeling the spirit whatever

And close my eyes to raise my hands (the way that I was taught)

I picture the white-hippie-with-nail-piercings

And my twerk revolution can’t handle that kind of oppression

So I am back to square zero

Back to the unlearning and deleting

And purging things I have no idea what I would sound like

If they were to be muted

What if I start over?

I need to start over.

Every day

I am going to start over

I think

For sanity’s sake.

The same amount of brilliance and beauty

is the same dosage of bullshit in dope human beings

Just something to remember.

 

TWO:

Don’t be afraid of the silence

Don’t be afraid of hearing your own voice

Don’t be afraid of sounding your own voice

People are always projecting

Don’t wallow in your own fears

You will never live

Take a train. Even if it scares you

Don’t say to yourself “talk less about yourself”

See yourself more often

Even when they call you self-indulgent

Especially when they call you self-indulgent

Listen more

Practice kindness more

Write what you like

Reflect more

Don’t be afraid of vulnerability

Don’t regret the decisions you make intoxicated

Have more wine

Admit that you love wine

Don’t apologise for loving wine

Drink as much water though

Cry

Cry

Cry

Cry

Cry

Cry

Allow the rejection in

Move forward

But you are not made of steel or iron or your mother and her mother’s genes

Don’t hold on to things that have a no grip

Don’t get a grip if you don’t want to

Write and write whatever you want

Vacillate between the self-doubt and the confidence

You will always be a contradiction

Your work will do surgery on you

Only because the pain and the experiences were real

Admit you did not cry about some of it

Admit that you did not get mad about some of it

Don’t crawl back into a prisoning silence

Call your mother

Send your father pictures of Washington

Accept that they are trying

Take it one day at a time

You are still figuring this out

Allow the process of growth

Miss the ones that have passed on

Name them if you must

The world will not stop for you

You have to slow down-for you

Sleep more

Breathe more

Eat more healthy stuff

You are enough

All the time

You are here

You will be something

You are already something

Say today it hurts

Today it is sore

Today it’s hard to breathe

Do not edit this poem

Do not censor or attempt to dilute the past

Write about God and church for as long as it takes to purge you of your conditioning

Love as many souls as you need to

Love in ways that make sense for you

A lot of the bullshit will pass

The elders can testify

More importantly

One day at a time:

Live

Live

Live

Live

Live

Live

BLACK SOLIDARITY (water’s uncle who always shows up drunk at the family gathering)

As a sibling to two black brothers

How do I teach them to not take up space at the expense of my visibility?

How to assert their position without negating my presence

That black solidarity does not include making my spine a door mat

So that they can stand or have a backbone

That Black solidarity at the expense of a black woman’s anything is a farce

A rip off,

The kind of violence they shred into laughter at the police station

And replay in front of you just to make sure they got the joke

These ‘conscious brothers’ have managed to convince themselves

That this movement where they slaughter and commodify our bodies and existence

Then call us to solidarity

Is an epic love story/a revolution we cannot betray

The floorboards of this house can no longer hold these secrets

Fanon and Malcolm sound like venom in your mouth

I cannot tell if I am breaking bread or being poisoned

How come your revolution don’t preach Kimberlé Crenshaw or Audre Lorde?

How come your revolution is only convenient when you are trying to drop my  panties?

We cannot conceal the blood on the walls and pretend like it is not on your hands

Yes whiteness. But You. Make this movement so stagnant.

It is anchored by undermining black women’s struggle.

Tell it to wait.

Tell it, it does not need all that sass and feminist noise.

Tell it, that not all of you are like that.

(I swear I must have heard that line before from an oppressor)

If you are part of the converted

Then wake your fellow brother until they are ‘woke’ too

Until the church doesn’t have satan standing at the pulpit

Telling us to hold up the placard while they hold up the megaphone

Turn our shadows into shade and call us brave for being able to withstand the heat

We must hand you our faces and vaginas to play tennis with

To make canvasses with

You come dressed as allies wearing anti-patriarchy masks

But you are just here to do the black solidarity dance

Stop hijacking the mic on my silence

[Give me one rapper I can trust my sons’ ears with

Give me one lyric I can trust my daughter’s image with]

You call us to show up

But know our place

Stop being a bitch

But be a bad bitch in the bedroom

Be your ‘whore’

But not like a whore in general

To not twerk like that in public

But twerk a little harder in the same video that has a fully clothed and ‘woke’ brother rapping about Black liberation and the need for Black Brothers to affirm Black sisters

So you want her to cover up but not in the music video

You want her to be a contradiction but not complicated or a double standard

You want her to be a pliable wire you can shape into anything you want and when you want it

A trophy you can shine and parade

A portable something you can switch on and off

She must not speak for herself but speak on behalf of

She is not visible or valuable unless

Unless a black man or white woman towers over her

While scrubbing the floor

Or laying on her back with her legs spread open

We only become visible

When you need us for backup

To bring our pom poms and struggle songs

And when you realise that the world does not love you either

That the mortuary [that is this country] thirsts for your blood too

But what’s the point of liberation and claiming back Land

If neither of us will be here to receive it

Stop making our bodies a cemetery

I did not come here to die

and to be a sacrifice

for you.

 

MOUNTAIN (water’s cousin)

The sun

Drips the foundation on my face down my collar bone

This walk is no longer fun or graceful

We have been circling parts of Namaqualand for over twenty minutes

Trying to locate the start of the mountain

Or the entry point of it

Every entrance (we see) is fenced

The dogs bark at the sight of our footsteps

The dogs want to jump the fence

The dogs look on defence

I feel on defence

I feel ready for a fight,

Guarded against a fight I do not yet see

But quickly foresee trouble

When the old white lady, in her pyjamas, turns my back with her Afrikaans

And says you are on private property

I question why I understand what she has said

And the mountain she calls private

“You can’t go up the mountain, without going past my property”

She says

I ask if she owns the mountain

She says she owns the land-

Namaqualand?

I think she is implying she built the mountain

Erected it stone by stone

Imagined its existence before her birth

I think she is telling me that

They own the mountains too

And I swear

I am not making it about race,  It’s not personal

It’s just her mountain in Namaqualand

It’s just private poverty

In the way your thoughts are private poverty

In the way your freedom is private property

In the way your obsessive partner thinks you are his/her private poverty

In the way your body is private property

In the way private property was lynched and sold back in the day

It’s not personal, this private property thing

It just does not not belong to you

It was not built (by your ancestors) for you

You are not allowed in it

You are not allowed on it

Unless you are the maid or nanny or garden boy or adopted

Or  cockroach bumping into things when the lights have been switched off

A cockroach bumping into things when the lights have been switched off

My friends (upon hearing the old white lady’s tale) joke

That heaven will be private property too

So I’m guessing you won’t be able to go to heaven

Unless you are a servant of God

And of course, we are people who cannot go anywhere

Or inherit anything unless we embody roles of servitude

And yet our forefathers built kingdoms

We do not own or live on

As an inherent aspect of your settling, and our consequential migration

This current native land act

Tells us to

Move, if we can’t afford it

Move, if the neighbourhood is hostile

Move, because our guests are too loud

Move, because the neighbours have been complaining

Move, because the three dogs on a leash need more space on the pavement

Move, because I will bump you out of the way because I do not see colour

Move the last two syllables of your name off your ID, so I can swallow who you are

Move your child to another school, ours is full (we have reached the quota for never mind)

Move if you did not make a reservation, there aren’t any more tables, no those ones are reserved

Move if you don’t get along with the Landlord

The self-appointed Lords of this land

Are asking of you to move

To shift

To bend

To Jump

To beg

To become scraps

To become palatable

To shrink

To keep explaining

To be the explanation

To be the scapegoat

To be the actual goat

To be the slaughter house and the sacrifice,

But just not talk about the blood spill,

To be the apology

To be the excuse

To be the puppet and the strings and the applause and the stage sweeper

In this native land act

We are the spectacle

The monkeys

(The pun intended)

The poetic visuals for the township tour

Our bodies are now the houses being demolished

Our throats bulldozed

Our words becoming rubble

Our belongings no longer recognizable

As we are yanked from our skin

Dodging assassination attempts that look like

Picnics and selfies with the law and rubber bullets and private security

And yoga poses during public holiday marches

Telling us our movements do not matter

Unless we are moving out of the way

Or moving to make way

Or moving out

Or moving in together to squat like sardines in tin metal squares mistook for houses

Unless your movement is about Mandela

It does not matter

So move it elsewhere

Just not up the mountain

Because the mountain is for their banners

And anyway,

you can’t go up the mountain

Apparently,

It does not belong to you

Like everything else around here.