Poetry by Khadija Heeger, from Thicker Than Sorrow

The JRB presents an excerpt from Khadija Heeger’s poetry collection, Thicker Than Sorrow.

Thicker Than Sorrow
Khadija Heeger
Modjaji Books, 2022



When they come to ask me who these people are
the ones whose roots lie fibrous and convoluted beneath the surface
these people whose histories fall untidy onto pages
these people whose histories fall off pages out of memory into ectoplasm
I will tell them your name, and your name and yours
I will say your name so loud the earth will split her tidy lips
and the sky will fracture her seams
I will scream you up into each crevice so blush of you falls on all that is
breathing, on all that is holy.
I will say he was here, and she was here, and he was here
Not January, not February, not van de Caeb or van Bengal
I will take my sinewy tongue and spell your true names on the rapture of my skin
I will write you a proud voice in the hearts of babes, on the walls of caves
I will name your presence
speak the music of your births, your deaths, your desires
I will play it out across the arteries of time
and make you a monument beyond any stone or wood.

When they come to ask me who these people are
I will say
these people are my people
they are your people
they are all people
in One people
this is my blood narrative to you.

My Mother, My Sister, Me

Life is a fragile thing
silk thread snagged on a thorn
ash caught on the wind
sob shape-shifting into a tear
a heart stopped in mid beat
the sound of an empty room waiting for a voice
It comes and it goes every second
it hangs in its balance
stilt walker now, tightrope walker then
insisting, receding
Death is its condition
a fathomless echo pronounced in every day we live
I miss the vines on your hands

threading a blood secret under your skin
I miss the mist of perfumes claiming fabric in your cupboard
The sage of an endless childhood waltzing to the love of women like you
Women whose arms hold the entire world
I am a tall climb of a tree
Because you planted me so lovingly
I am the home you made of me.


  • Khadija Heeger is a highly regarded poet, actor, cultural activist and playwright who hails from the Cape Flats. Her work has been characterised as stark and unapologetic. Heeger’s debut poetry collection, Beyond the Delivery Room, was published in 2013. Thicker Than Sorrow is her much anticipated second collection.


Publisher information

In this much anticipated second collection, Thicker Than Sorrow, Khadija Heeger focuses on appreciating and honouring her roots and unearthing her history.

Her work has the wisdom and power of a griot, a seer, and a storyteller. When she speaks her words in person, she has an incantatory power, which can be felt in the words on the page.

In rummaging through the drawers and closets of her blood family and the family she has chosen, the poet discovers inspiration and beauty in the most ordinary places: a bowl of rice, a kitchen, a daisy chain, a sunflower garden, a galvanised bath. The poems reveal a poet who is ‘falling in love with my roots & me, life. And it’s just the beginning. I am a multitude of voyages.’

She looks at the past as a map, a way of understanding the present, she looks for the treasures in her past and her family and community. Things that survived the heartless brutality of apartheid and colonialism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *