This poem is published in vangile gantsho's poetry novella red cotton. red 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
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.