This poem appears in Maneo Mohale's collection, Everything Is A Deathly Flower, published by Uhlanga, 2019. Maneo Mohale reckons boldly with the experience of – and the reconstruction of a life after – a sexual assault. WARNING: The content of this poem is of an adult nature.
Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale
“In place of no, my leaking mouth spills foxgloves.
Trumpets of tongued blossoms litter the locked closet.
Up to my ankles in petals, the hanged gowns close in,
mother multiplied, more – there’re always more”– Saeed Jones, Closet of Red.
The memory returns to me as a dream.
Inkblot rising black, weeping porous on the night’s page.
In place of my room, I lie sleeping in an open forest,
moss a bed beneath me, blanket of cedar leaves – fragrant
and warm as prayer.
Until you arrive. In all your silent menace
you are keeping watch. Your night vigil brief,
searching for a moment when my sleep dips deepest.
You sneak into the moss and touch me without my consent.
In place of no, my leaking mouth spills foxgloves
soundlessly onto the pillowed green.
You do not stop. Instead, you mistake the flood of petals
from my mouth as pleasure. You do not stop. Instead,
you read my body’s rigidness as Yes. You read my silence as Permission.
You read my closed eyes as Assent. And my turned head
as Of Course I Am Black and Woman and Queer
What Else Could My Body Be For But Entry
How Else Am I Legible But As Safe To Violate
Everything is a deathly flower.
Trumpets of tongued blossoms litter the locked closet
standing unmoved behind us. Panic paces its itch
across my back and for a moment, I forget my power.
Until I arrive. In the dream, everything is different.
I will my eyes to open. I throw you off of me
onto the floor. I summon the vines to snake
around your wrists like venom. In the dream, the ground
asks you what on earth you are doing.
In the dream, everything rises to protect me.
The petals from my mouth are survivors. I am
up to my ankles in petals, the hanged gowns close in
ensnaring you and suddenly I am safe. Everything
is different in the dream. In the dream, I am safe
forever. I leave my moss bed with bare feet.
Somewhere a lover calls me by name.
“Gift-mother”, she says.
We find each other by the water. I
leave the foxgloves behind me.
Every petal that fell
from my mouth is a survivor, they are my
mother multiplied, more – there’re always more.