‘I share me so you can know you’—Read an excerpt from Thirty Five Poems by the late Myesha Jenkins

The JRB presents an excerpt from Thirty Five Poems, a posthumously published collection of poetry by Myesha Jenkins, who passed away in September 2020.

Thirty Five Poems
Myesha Jenkins
Lukhanyo Publishers, 2021

6. I call it home

They call my neighborhood the ghetto.
A place that’s not safe.
A place that decent people don’t want to go.
I move in and out on my streets
laughing at the people who just don’t know my neighborhood.

Kids run and play after school till dark
girls walking up and down, sharing the latest dance moves
boys chasing girls in between running down the goals
of their football game.

There are a couple of street mechanics up the street
and sometimes the smell of beer wafts down from their yard.
The retired neighbor makes a few bucks from the old Italian lady
taking her to the gym, the shops and to run her other errands.

When my tenant comes, the next-door neighbor
lets me park in his driveway for free.
And for a small price, the guy across the street
puts my rubbish bin out and brings it back to me.

Sundays are days of holiness and beauty.
Women with tiny braids and black lipstick stand on the corner
dressed in purple lace and elaborate head wraps
holding their Bibles, waiting for their ride to church.
Little girls mimic their mothers, in pastel dresses,
bows in their hair and shiny Vaselined legs and faces.

Going to praise Him in the language of
Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, Congo and Cameroon.

Sunday afternoon air is filled with garlic, sauted with onions,
meat on the grill, smoky greens.
The battle of cultures is in the music,
between mbaqanga and meringue, jazz and gospel.

I don’t like the women standing in front of
the new guest lodge up the street,
But it’s not the work they do
as much as their customers parking all over the road
that makes me mad.

Yeah, my neighborhood is a ghetto alright.
Some people say it’s not safe.
But I call this place my home.
I live here where Africa mixes with itself.

25. Sharing me

I want to write poems that make you feel
kick you in the stomach
make you remember what you forgot
stop your breath.

I want to write poems that make you feel
with words that touch your ears
and images you can see
I share me so you can know you.

32. Let me die dancing

A swirling star
lands in my brain
pretending to be
just another thing
until I realize that
the whole universe
is dancing.

35. The handover

I give this baton to you, dear daughter.
Its lessons continue at a pace
I can no longer keep; scarred and weak,
betrayed by this body and age.
You are our dreams, awakening in your
own nightmare to imagine dreams again.

I give this to you now. I kept it
When I didn’t know how to stand.
Take it. It belongs in your hands now.
Take it, fierce warrior. Let me follow you:
          from the side,
          from the back,
          from wherever you tell me to be.
The time for fighting and for dying has returned.

View some images from the launch of Thirty Five Poems here:

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