Three poems by Dimakatso Sedite, from Yellow Shade

The JRB presents three poems from Dimakatso Sedite’s collection Yellow Shade, winner of a NIHSS Award and recently shortlisted for the Ingrid Jonker Prize.

Yellow Shade
Dimakatso Sedite
Deep South, 2021

When women are train stations

The man had a woman at every station,
each perfumed in her township,
all oozing with the warmth of the bosoms
of their grandmothers.

Mahikeng had hugs; a sea of a dress
flaunting curves, hiding the hell
blazing in her chest as she swallowed
wrath with a pink-chalked smile.

Orkney wrapped hope in tight jeans,
after a few beers gulped
in a wind-shocked shack, too drunk to sink
into this hollow tube of a man,

a flower blooming behind a mine dump.
Her boobs, green apples;
her nipples, peanuts poking her T-shirt
to hooting taxis and GTIs,

grime of life under her white All Stars.
Orlando was older,
a pot of slow-cooking stew,
simmering, as future waited.

Tembisa was tea, trembling in a paper cup,
trying to live now,
teasing the Tom out of his train,
tearing its twigs apart.

Each station was more than his taste buds
could take,
leaving smoke to haunt the tracks of this train
of a man.

I had plans

I had plans for the day death came.
I was going to swim in the river
like paper; swirl like soft porridge
on my granny’s table.

I was going to watch the sun crack
through the peeling door,
like a mirror running away
from a car hauled by a ghost.

I was going to grace the sandstone skull
of Thaba Bosiu; smell the dignity
of my father’s cattle,
their hides shimmering in the sun.

But then I passed away.

Death slid like a curtain.
Mourners howled hymns inside
my hut, the way women do
when they need their husbands

to shut up. I told them they had banged
on the wrong door. So they folded arms
into a tight stack of wood; and allowed
darkness to blanket my being.

And then I passed away.

Geelbooi’s homecoming

He enters, a 1970s relic, through an imagination of a gate,
a memory of an Afro, of Percy Sledge
sliding in circles between songs of an LP record player.
Ten yellow hairs fray on his balding lawn’s scalp,
below rusting roofs, next to upturned paint tins
on which ageing men sit over drinks,
behind cigarette smoke, like wheelbarrows,
like things useful only at funerals.

Embers wink, sink into ash.
Furrows between their brows unfold like tablecloths,
to recall a name, a childhood, a memory,
while women with strong feet and big chests carry
the meat of a freshly-cut-up sheep that had been
breathing and peeing on a red stoep an hour ago.
Aunts, unwed aunts’ daughters, pour out,
chests bouncing ahead of them, towards this feather.
Uncles trail behind on borrowed feet of ants,
to greet Geelbooi, a hut that’s slowing crumbling.

Biza, Ou Kop & Tiger stagger next to Black Label quarts.
‘Jerr, G, ke wena motho o?’
‘Jaanong ha o tsohetse jaana, monna?’
Their chuckles smear a stainless-steel tray with missing teeth.
‘Was it 1989 when you left?’
Suddenly my heart starts to hurt as if
there’s a needle threading through it.

  • Dimakatso Sedite was born in Bloemfontein in 1969. She trained as a research psychologist and has worked in the areas of child rights, livelihoods and HIV/Aids. Her poems, stories, and essays have appeared in several anthologies, journals and writer blogs. She was a joint winner of the 2019 Dalro Poetry Prize for the best poem in the journal New Coin.

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

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