[The JRB exclusive] Read an excerpt from Makhosazana Xaba’s new collection of poetry, The Alkalinity of Bottled Water

The JRB presents an excerpt from The Alkalinity of Bottled Water, the new collection of poetry by The JRB Patron Makhosazana Xaba.

The Alkalinity of Bottled Water is published by Botsotso Books.


The sky agrees

They understand our sorrows, imbibe our stories.
They carry our memories and create their own.
They articulate philosophies and choose fitting actions.
They show us our shortcomings.

Though they feel deceived, they stand up and speak out,
Demand and proclaim, occupy.
They study while sitting; tweet, post,
Broadcast the revolution.

They have changed the new we thought we had created.
Even the sky agrees—the beautiful ones have arrived.



The tentacles of white men in academia
Go deep, spread wide, entangle,
Cross time.

Says a Black woman scholar,
The only solution is to wait

for them to die.



She is my friend. No, she was my friend –
Over time, we went our separate ways.

She became richer when her father died;
I became poorer when my parents retired.

When she moved to the coast, another inconvenience:
The distance between our homes.

When she visits the city, she worries about the safety of her car
outside my home.
When I travel for work not too far from the coast, I cannot afford
to travel to hers.

Although we still chat, the content builds walls between us;
Her holidays longer, the number of her white friends larger.

Although she still plans on learning an indigenous language,
I—her preferred practice ground—have become an absence.

She was my friend when we were anti-apartheid activists.
What are we today? The common enemy has yet to surface.


  • Makhosazana Xaba is an anthologist, essayist, short story writer and poet. She has published three collections of poetry, while her debut short story collection Running and other stories (2013) was a joint winner of the 2014 South African Literary Awards Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award. She is co-editor of three Queer Africa anthologies and Proudly Malawian: Life Stories from Lesbian and Gender-nonconforming Individuals (2016). She is currently a research fellow at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), working on a biography of Helen Nontando ‘Noni’ Jabavu.

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