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Lebogang Mashile

mahmag  •  09 August, 2009


I wore you
I wore you today
Like a raggedy coat
For the feel of how warm it used be
....
Mashile won the 2006 Noma Award for her poetry collection, In a Ribbon of Rhythm.


...
Lebogang Mashile

Mashile won the 2006 Noma Award for her poetry collection, In a Ribbon of Rhythm. She is a visual verbalist, and an icon of modern South African poetry. In addition to these given titles Lebo Mashile has been forging her own creative identity since she emerged on the Johannesburg arts scene almost seven years past. Lebo Mashile's tireless work ethic has earned her creative titles including published author, executive producer, actress, poet, independent record producer, corporate and independent event MC, life skills facilitator/speaker and television series presenter. In all her creative roles, it is Mashile's sharp intellect, questioning mind and fierce sense of social exploration that drive her passion for creativity.

Photo credit: Ogilvy Dawn; Voice Out



Poems


ABCs

It takes just 26 letters to create a universe
The world is dismantled and then reassembled
Through the lens of a pen and verse
I have lost myself in books
And then found myself in words
Living in a world without imagination
I can think of no fate that is worse

Iíve walked through the lives of individuals
Whose eyes Iíve never known
Iíve been to cities and villages and country sides
Whose skies, to me, have never been shown
It was in this solitary cell
That my greatest strength was honed
I saw that my mind was just a shell
And itís abyss simply a hole
And the hell of a heaving heavy heart
Is still my friend
Every story has its place
And history never ends

The writer is an architect God child at play
On a canvass of memories
She lies naked between the covers
Her own lover
Her own worst enemy
Navigating between extremes
She is both the judge and the judged
The vile despised and attacked
The unashamedly beloved
The unassuming friend whoíll tell your business
When youíre not in sight
She pulls commotion out of stillness
In the cavern of the night

And South Africa is a fractured mirror
A paradox of schizophrenic selves
Who donít talk to one another
Who fear each other
Who revere each other
Who loathe
And pretend
And try to blend in
With each other

And this is the time when you can become
The greatest substance of your dreams
Unless you live in a shack
And donít speak English
And donít know what this poem means
Tell me how itís possible for people
Who walk on gold to not know how to read
Tell me how publishers whoíll never taste their tongues
Can comprehend the words that these people need
Because theyíve never been scared of stories
The ones who uttered the very first
The ones whoíll hand them to their children
Calling out the rivers of their self worth
The ones whoíll write a narrative in the ear
But who wonít call the ear a page
The ones whoíll rhyme without pens
And perform without a stage

I donít have all the answers
Iím just a colonized African
Who breaks down the Queenís English
Until Sesotho understands it
Still Iím compelled by those
Who may never inhabit my language
I wonder if trials and translations
Could help them to traverse my landscape

South Africa is an old fashioned mutt
Who knows how to sing
And knows even better how to cuss
Who knows how to piece together prayers
When sheís about to run out of luck
Who knows how to laugh real hard
When the tears have run her into a rut
Who knows that race is a farce
Because when the lightís are off
Every bodyís fucked
And when the welts and wounds
Demand healing salve
Words are just enough



I wore you

I wore you today
Like a raggedy coat
For the feel of how warm it used be
I wore you
Beneath the tattered veil of night
Far from the glare of stars or eyes
I wore you
Until touched reduced to the wetness
Of crumpled notes
Left in my tiny hand
I wear your scent into day
But I have never
Tasted your kiss



Joburg cocktail

At night
The air is rancid sweet
With money
Fear and
Inspiration



Moveable Map

Go
Slow
Into
Worlds
Where
Words
Unfold
Maps

Find
Holes

Make
Whole

Steer
Clear
Of
Traps

See
Gaps

Steps
Steeped
In
Insight

Free
Flight
(fright)

Break
Form

Flow
Fly
Fall
Crawl
Creep
Quietly
Feel
Fear

Steal
Hope
Slide
Out
Trip
Up
Slip
Away
Skip
Over
Flop
Down
Flip
Through
Hop
On

Bend
Pretend
The
Mind
Is
A
Friend

Donít
Forget
To
Dismember
Memory
Remember
To
Write
Whatís
Left

Know
That
It
Binds
You
Like
Wind
Blowing
From
Inside


Even
Air
Has
Songs
Like
You
Never
Stopping
They
Just
Keep
Moving



Reincarnation

Bush bunny
Jungle monkey
Darker than a vortex
Black and funky
Disgusting
The residue thatís left
On places we reject
In the absence of gravity
Everything rises like steam
And yesterdayís nightmare
Becomes todayís dream
It seems before there was race
Colour was a fact
The sum of all
Is rich
Is scorned
Is reborn
Is dirty
Is worthy
Is black



Safe place

I will keep you in a safe place
Where the walls speak
And the doors donít have locks
Where the roads intersect
And collisions are encouraged
Where each throbbing tremor
Is listened to
And the children never grow old

I will keep you in a safe place
Where heaven is beneath your feet
And hell is in the sky
And the road youíve walked
Is your guide
The sweat on your back
The cracks on your heels
Are plastered to the walls

The walls never shut up
They speak you to yourself
They will find you
Between two covers
In the words between the lines



The lighter side of darkness

The sun is a loyal lover
Even when the earth puts on
Her grey coat
And cries over nights
Spent alone
The sun still shines for her
On the other side
Of the clouds

...
from: African Writing online
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