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  Aug 2019 Zukiswa Mvunguse
Erin C Ott
She says she doesn’t have the strength within herself to write poetry.
Yes, her. The one who so often nourished me with song
til my soul began to learn how to hunt for itself,
whose word carried weight in leading me to pick my own instrument,
albeit one of a different tone,
as the key in keyboard became prominent for the first time
and the sound of purposeful fingers upon it could be considered,
only in the right light,
synonymous to the plucking of strings, just as rooted in emotion.

Yet she's the first to say that she herself can't do it.

Thing is, I suppose we’re politely at odds on the matter.
She favors poetry that’s sharper, with a cleaner cut,
that’s message is immediate and jarring
as a conduit running from soul through skin,
or a loose-lipped diary finally freed from lock and key.
And when she declared it, I started to consider what my poems seem to me:
Blackberry bushes (but kinder, I hope)
that snag and immerse just long enough
to make me feel I’ve had an effect.
I’ve used writing to expel my most gnarled feelings
to any passerby who’s maybe felt the same.
Like crying in a mirror:
alarming, but oddly refreshing,
and an indefinite reminder that our aches are never only our own.

Still, I'm not sure why it blows my mind
to hear that even the most glamorous hearts,
who wear confidence as a summer breeze that's always in their favor
and who inspire, from beau gestures to sleight of hand,
are included in those who find themselves pacing back, back and forth,
begging curbside at the dime store
for a scrap of the same feed that convinces a heart to pump ink.

But she says that any art that's enjoyed is worth it.
So while she seeks out words that bare the bones,
I’ll stay and make a meal of the marrow,
hollowing them so that the poetry may have a rightful place
to reverberate as hymns in a universal monastery.

But hell, like I’m any old soul.
I dress nicer than I otherwise would,
turn to the mother who told me I don’t meet her lowest standards,
and ask for a critique.
All for the moment when she greets me at the door with a legendary G#.

...Now please, could you spare a dime?
Dedicated to Elise, who, when faced with my tangled mouthful of flattery, somehow saw through to the part of me that’s actually worth a ****.
Zukiswa Mvunguse Jul 2019
SOMETIMES WHEN LEFT TO MY OWN DEVICES
MY MIND BEGINS TO WANDER
REPLAYING PAST EVENTS, QUESTIONING PAST DECISIONS
IF I'M LEFT TOO LONG ON MY OWN
DEVOID OF HUMAN COMPANIONSHIP
MY MIND SLOWLY DISINTERGRATES
AND THE WALLS I'VE BUILT AROUND ME COME CRASHING DOWN
SENSING MY VUNERABLE STATE
THE VULTURES START CIRCLING
AND THEN COMES THE WAIT, WITH BREATHES ABATED
CRUMBLING BRICK UPON CRUMBLING BRICK
UNTIL THE LAST STONE FALLS
THEN LIKE STARVED WOLVES THEY POUNCE
ANXIETY SINKS IT'S CLAWS INTO MY FLESH
INFUSING MY BLOOD WITH PANIC
THIS BLOOD-BORNE DISEASE MANIFESTS IN EMBARRASSMENT
TURNING INTO ANGER
BUT IN THE WORST CASE SCENARIO
WHOLE BODY SPASMS EVOLVE
INTO WINDPIPE CRUSHING HEART PALPITATIONS
PUBLIC APPEARANCES ARE NOT ADVISED DURING THIS TIME
They are telling me to fight
Just to hold on
My my dreams aren't reality
I just want to be done
They say hope for the best
In a world where if you aren't the best
You must continue to live under the rest
I want to be gone
I am all alone
No one will accept me
Needing
               To
                   Say
                         Goodbye
                                         Before
                                                    I
                                                      Slip
                                                             Up
                                                                  In
                                                                      A
                                                                         Slip knot
Zukiswa Mvunguse May 2019
Whenever I think of putting pen to paper
Intangible thoughts into words
And translating the foreign tongue of my heart
My body starts to shake, my cold blood begins to boil
And tears fill my eyes, but they refuse to flow

Explaining depression is like trying to conquer writers block
Unfortunately, I suffer from both
To my parents, I’m just stressed
To my siblings it’s typical me
And to my friends, it’s taking a joke too far

My mother says she doesn’t understand
Depression doesn’t exist in her culture, but patriarchy does
So, I smile and say it’s nothing, but the ***** in me rears her ugly head and screams
‘Look at me, don’t you recognise the face you wake up to everyday
The feelings you were taught to stomp out and ground down for your husband’s morning coffee
I am you…’
But the coward in me smothers these silent pleas

My father is more eloquent than my mother
He brandishes words as if they were swords
But throws them like poison daggers, twice as deadly
So, he twists and mangles my words, skewering my perception
The heart’s silent screams turning into never ending tears, turning into rivers of blood
I tell him how much I despise him and how I wish I were dead
But one look at my mother’s stricken face, her warning glare,
Reduces my courage into ash and I degrade myself further with an apology

My siblings are a confusing, unpredictable bunch
My brothers don’t know what’s going on, but they understand
How I envy their innocence and ignorance
My older sisters are more complicated
One is my rock, the only thing keeping me from ending it all
She says she’s been here before, that I need to be strong and that she understands
But that only makes me feel guilty for never being there for her
She’s leaving home soon and all I can think is ‘What about me?’
Our eldest sister is a nassistic sociopath
She thinks she’s helping…

Now I don’t have many ‘friends’, but I do have a Best Friend
When I tell her that I’m depressed, she doesn’t ask me why
On most days, she’s my polar opposite, the Yin to my Yang
She’s as skinny as I am fat, loves horror movies which I hate
She can’t stand anime, this is her only flaw
But on some days our stars align
And it’s eerie how much our life experiences mirror each other
To my other friends I just laugh everything off
As if curing this emptiness was as easy as getting over a broken heart
We are the underground poets of the universe.

We write to ease our pain from our own shadow,

We clothe our flesh, feelings & emotions into written sins,

Mask our aspirations to repent,
Dreams may be unholy, yet it is the highest liberation.
                  Over generalized written statement,
                                           Signed.
                                                                ­   

                                                                                         ©MH
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