POEM | I'm standing in the middle of the road

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
vangile gantso's red cotton is an exploration of what it means to be black, queer, and woman in modern-day South Africa.(Photo: Supplied)
vangile gantso's red cotton is an exploration of what it means to be black, queer, and woman in modern-day South Africa.(Photo: Supplied)

This poem is published in vangile gantsho's poetry novella red cottonred cotton is an exploration of what it means to be black, queer, and woman in modern-day South Africa. gantsho interrogates being non-conformist in both a traditional-cultural-religious upbringing and a more liberal yet equally-oppressive urban socialisation. WARNING: The content of this poem is of an adult nature.

*

I'm standing in the middle of the road trying to drown out my

mother's voice. She tells me I'll go to hell for all the men who come

in and out of my bed. She doesn't know about the women. I wonder

if there is a worse kind of hell for people like me,

                               ***

something frozen catches the wind

whispers a maybe into the rain

chanting-humming far away

a brewing of smallgirls coming

                              the knot, the blindfold and the maze   

                              a lonesome table with a plastered leg

                              ***

                              the same beggar, two rand, without a face

                              smallgirl-women playing hopscotch on the roof

                              ***

A beautiful brown man in a well-cut navy suit pees into a dead

brown face. I watch as his urine goes into her eyes. I am impressed

by his aim.

                              ***

When I was young, I watched my mother cut up a skirt. She was

crying. She wrote a letter and placed it, with the skirt, into a yellow

plastic bag. I followed her to my father's car, where she placed the

plastic bag on the driver's seat.

                              ***

here, the hurry, the quickly, fix your skirt

the strings and chalk and morning dew

a friend of a friend who knows someone's friend

                              ***

My mother thinks I am a whore. I do not know if I disagree.

                              ***

I am ravenous on street corners on a summer day. Taunted by short

shorts and perky breasts. An old white woman sits by the window

while a waiter serves a plate of something that could buy bread

and fish every day for two weeks at least. She eats two forkfuls.

                             ***

In a dream, I am haunted by the shadow of an old man, who may 

have been my father, or brother. An old man with eyes breathing

heavily on me. Ears, expectant, dripping saliva over something lace.

Black. Or red, brailed by curly hints of carelessly-trimmed pubic

hair. And I lay before him, as if behind a glass window. Offering two

mouthfuls.

                          ***

a pink cotton invitation under the table

the ill-timed blood on a lover's fingers

the smell of impepho in the middle of the night

                        ***

Today the is no black. No dark. No light.

Today there are only blues and blood. Hope and heart.

                        a half-done face in a coffin.

a brewing storm of smallgirls coming.

red cotton

Impepho Press

60 pages

R180

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24