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Tawanda Mulalu Jul 2015
Musk. Wind

whispers mysteries in the form of it;
it thickens thin air until it turns black,
black enough to

hush. Wind,

being black, absorbs your thoughts,
makes violent curls of them; thickens,
thickens thin air until it

into pages and pages
stained black with disaster-
as if a hurricane crumpled

those could-have been white aeroplanes, potential
papered to fly, and flung them
into the pit of your mind to
your poems were written and the casualties numbered:
each line a suicide of a thought that could have been,
each syllable ink-stained and bloodied black
by artistic integrity, or madness: the same.

This wind is your hair.
This wind is your territory.
Not mine. Never could I have met you here,
in this place
of your solitary being: where real poets exist.

I am not a hurricane: and I am not your disaster.
I have learnt and re-learnt how useless it is to define you
in terms of myself; how useless it is to define you
at all. A rationalist like me can never truly understand
what it is to be part of your endlessness, the sheer
mountainous immensity that constitutes your thrill.
your hair fascinates me as much as any ancient,
spiralling, far-away Andromeda- but the fact
that even now,  I've already tried to limit you
with words
shows the absoluteness, the solidity,
the density
of my misunderstanding of your... your...

real poets know that rationalists are fools.
You know

I am a fool.
I write these meagre verses
with unreachably cold computer technologies
that these words could somehow save us. Yet,
I am some drunken nuisance knocking
at your door, who turns and strolls
right before you finally
I am a fool

going home and seeing clouds
in the darkness. It is my first
time seeing them in the sky. First
time in nearly a month.
The moon illuminates the clouds,
and so do
the towers of highway lights in the middle of two roads.
One road leads forward, the other backwards.
As the car passes the towers,
the two lamps attached to each of their heads glow.
They streak on as the car speeds on homewards.
They leave fading tails like shooting stars, except they do not travel.
They are stagnant mind lights, peripheral memories; unmythical,
They are not like you.

When I pass you,


never believe-
for even a whisper of musk
to yourself;
for even a black hush,
to yourself;
for even one sliver, one strand
of Andromeda hair, falling
towards yourself-
didn't mean anything less than Eternity to me.

It does.

I am not a hurricane. I am not your disaster.
You are far too much of yourself
for me to be even a zephyr
to you.
Those nonsensical similarities between us are irrelevant. You are you and nothing more.

I'm the problem.
Tawanda Mulalu Jul 2015
Prometheus gave fire
to humanity and had
his innards guzzled
by vultures for it.

You gave me the sun
and I
unduly set myself
to the task of tearing
apart your insides.

Top to bottom, I stripped you
strip you,
will strip you
of all that makes you you and
I don't know how to stop
turning your yellow
to orange
to purple
to black
like my innards too. See,
I too once gave fire
to people and lovers and friends and
I set myself to the task of
tearing up apart
those various necessities that made me
me. Things like basic human kindness.
Simple rules like don't
involve yourself with so many girls
that you lose count while never losing
count. That sort of
thing, y'know.

Do you know how long I've been
trying to write you a poem called
Darjeeling? I've been trying  for
so long that I drink coffee now.

I've been trying for so long that
when the restaurant menu finally
reads 'Darjeeling tea' for so and so
price, I don't pay it and order
some mediocre hot-chocolate instead
(and even a Strawberry milkshake. What
does that say about me, I wonder?).

It was lukewarm. It didn't scald
my tongue like you did.

I suppose it never will.
[repeat sign]
Tawanda Mulalu Jul 2015
Clementine deleted Joel
from her mind. Joel tried to
forget her; he couldn't, so
he got rid of her too. You
try, I know, to get rid of me. I
try, you know, to pretend that
the world isn't spinning so fast
in the hope
that we will fall of its spinning-top edge
and stumble, clumsily, gracelessly, into
each other. We're spinning so fast with it-
the world- so this is unlikely, so we both
pretend that it's an accident when we fall
into each other,
again and again, as
We play spin the bottle while
The world spins instead.
Now that that same world has stilled itself for
us: we don't know what to do without its
rotationary madness angling us
towards old age and crumpets (together?). That
same world has stilled itself until
tomorrow when that same world will spill
itself out from day to night to day again
as we take our respective first drafts
of our poems written about each other


out that same mad spin
that made us
just like
Joel and Clementine forgot-
on purpose. We forget, on purpose
with purpose
we'll still meet each other in Montauk where
that same world will still itself
as we wrap our fingers around each other's
in the cold
where you might finally reciprocate
my lacklustre

You too,
Message: This one came first. We probably think the same about things getting 'stilled'. Do I have any idea why? Maybe.
Tawanda Mulalu Jul 2015
From a distance,
planets look just like particles:
you can't see them.

So when I disappear
into the edge of the sky,

we won't orbit each other
so much.

you'll sleep without my
while knowing how small

I am,
but still a small
part of you

like a particle
which might be or have been
a planet.
Tawanda Mulalu May 2015
Madness. Stark raving madness.
Leaping flames of the mind. Gently licking
at the heart. Blood set on fire, brought
slowly to a boil. Madness. Stark. Raving.

The conversation simmered as such:
"Don't be dramatic."

Is this how we go about
pretending we are shocked
when people cut themselves shoot themselves
hang themselves end themselves when
they are told to simmer as such:
"Don't be dramatic."?

Drama is my eye sockets bleeding
heavily at paper-crumbled past midnight.
But of course I cannot do that.
I cannot bring myself to bleed.

Drama is my hands effortlessly
clutching a neck- any neck, I don't care whose-
and squeezing until my eye sockets bleed.
But of course I cannot do that.

Drama is not a breathless exasperation
when suddenly a wave of the same old
same old begs to drown you again
and once again you must pick up a pen
to survive. Darjeeling you
tire me oh so very much. You hate me
oh so very much I think. You...

No, me
and my madness. Stark. Raving.

Which I can't let happen again
because apparently dramatic is
being able to barely
take my next breath
and wondering why
respiration in a classroom
should be a mountain climb.
Tawanda Mulalu May 2015
Bathtub music and drums played on the surface
of Davy Jones's mirror: the ceramic holds
the sea, the sea, and all within it: ***** me.

Scrubbed you off my skin again for
the umpteenth night in a row. Row
row row our boat away from the constant,
constant rows. Stormy arguments and
weathered mistrust. You'll break me,
won't you? I'll break you, won't I? Won't you
come drown with me Ariel? Won't you
come up with me to the kitchen and lock up
the door then lock up the oven then lock up
ourselves in carbon-monoxide poetry?

But then how does cooking gas end up as sass
in a library? How did sustenance turn into
asphyxiation?  Why are our hands on
each other's throats instead of being binded
by the absoluteness, the certainty, the assuredness
of palms within palms and fingers interlocked
and question marks dispelled.

Splash! as way in and over my head
is the bathtub music
and my absorbent curls are
drinking, drinking, drinking, thinking
about the why you only call me when
you're drinking, drinking, drinking; thinking
about the way I cannot suppress you when
the cellphone has long gone quiet and
your Hughes of blue are still loud but
your red is dead.

Ariel, Ariel,
I want to be your dark-haired prince.
Ariel, Ariel,
my country is landlocked but I still see you in the sink.
Ariel, Ariel,

gurgling away as the bathtub music fades
into ugly brown rings around the ceramic
pause button
that shows no hope of continuation
Ariel, Ariel, you are the final splash!
as the false sea drifts away, the final splash!
that scatters bathtub music past the drain
and into the air. Ariel, Ariel,

you are the false rain
that my landlocked country never prayed for.
Ariel, Ariel, toneless, begotten and forgotten
Ariel, Ariel. I cannot sing for you. I cannot.
You will not sing for me. You will not.

The final splash! past the drain and into the air
is you Ariel. The false rain.

The rain song of our endless games.
See 'Ariel' by Sylvia Plath and 'Birthday Letters' by Ted Hughes.
Tawanda Mulalu May 2015
My eyes are a constant glitter when such dreams
pop up. It's nice to feel that way again, still,
after the endless march of time separates the wheat
from the chaff. Guess which one am I:
the one that doesn't get exported, which makes sense
My eyes are a constant glitter when such dreams
pop up. It's nice to feel that way again, still,
after the endless march of time...

And what exactly is that glitter?
Stars? Ghosts? Memories?
Or the final flicker of a bedroom light bulb.
Or the last swipe of now-dark screen.
Or a distant goodnight from chaff to
wheat; fertile land to barren desert, yet

still planting himself to the irrigated seas
of Spring, where burning sun was still growth
and when one looked forward to growing up
like this.

Winter has never felt so warm.

Nor wheat and chaff so warm
and and
like the thoughts of you and me.
I really like that 'and and.'
Tawanda Mulalu Apr 2015
I keep wondering if what I did was okay.
If it's okay for me to take so much of you
into my left hand, then my right hand and
squeeze, and feel two motherly dots in your centres.
I wonder if it's okay for me to grasp
at your smoothness so much, from head to toe,
**** to *******, heart to lips; and breathe
all over you: I'm scared
of it. I'm scared
                            of you,
of me,
            of us,
                       your moans,
          the dark,
my moans,
          the light,
          the day,
          the night.
It all frightens me, and I wonder if it's okay
to have suddenly grown up in the ludicrous
space of time it took to leave two obvious bruises
on your neck. I'm scared that your parents
will actually send you (back) to India but laugh
because I'm sure they won't- you applied foundation
to blot out my purple lust scars.
Love bites they call them.
I'm wondering if what you did was okay.
If it's okay for you to take so much of me;
every non-penetrative, ridiculous, amateur
******, and every saliva strand. Every whisper
of afro-hair that falls out of your hand-combs,
and your tongue, which -my God- is now mine.
I said I picked you, I pick you, but here,
bodies somehow body,
you are me.
                       Innocence lost
is when a short skirt
represents a different type of freedom.
And my hands under there,
is my best worst decision yet.
Tawanda Mulalu Apr 2015


When the poet first met her, again,
Cupid tried to strike him with an arrow.
It missed because the poet stared
through her. Not at her.

Yesterday it was,
'Get online loser.'
Tonight she says: quick
give me a description of Paris.

She always says such things.

He says: cold
like the pin-*****
of morning after-skin. Warm
like the shiver of a hand
held soft; of lips kissed.

He always says such things.

He even calls her Honeybear,
Cupid be ******.


He liked her because she read more books than him.

Her voice always made the sound of a page turned:
Crisp, clear, passionate;
revelling in the present,
but always waiting for the next sentence.

As if a book could actually speak
like a person.

As if the hours
she spent reading alone were not
just conversations with herself.

As if every syllable
was a night-whisper with
the great American dead.

The poet doubted if she ever
truly talked to Fitzgerald because
he was a drunk too obsessed
with one spirit. She'd get annoyed.

But then again, her drink of choice
is also an ungraspable green light.



When she put on her spectacles,
the world became less clearer:
she could only see how far away she was
from where she was supposed to be.
The sharper life's images were,
the surer she became of this.

She had her substitutes for foreign oxygen:
novels, movies, songs, poems;
but they never quite breathed the same.
He tried to force the glasses off her.
Maybe then she could more barely
make out the thorny edges of sun-dried Acacias,
and more fuzzily the general sun-warmth
that he thought was the Kgalagadi soul.

She refused, but when she didn't,
she wore contact lenses. Real,
or imagined, the thin sheet of
dream glass pressed against her eyes
could never disappear. Her soul
was where it was: where it wasn't.
So still all she could see,
even when he smiled vivid,
was a place that wasn't Paris.



That is where she thought she was.
Here, an indescribable place.
Indescribable because she saw it grey. He
instead saw dappled speckles,
and rainbows flickering across every corner.
But he was of here and here alone, he felt
the landscape's beauty in his bones. She
wondered why she should look at
sandy semi-desert instead of gravelled
culture. She wanted pathway upon pathways of
old Europe, lingering in modern cafés and bistros
like an affectionate aftertaste. He
was happy with spoonfuls of instant coffee with
translated copies of a country he would never see.
To him, a French poet in English
was just about the same as a
French poet in French.
He knew that wasn't true, of course.

But the point was to get across the idea of
a Little Paris in his Somewhere. Just as he had an
idea of her in the movies she shared; where
she would awkwardly appear as bits and pieces
of dialogue, sceneries, soundtracks and end-credits
injected into his laptop weekends atop his bed.
He knew her as old romance films on USBs.
It wasn't quite her, but he still liked the idea of it.

He liked ideas, and ideas alone
were more than enough for him.

To her, ideas were restless things
to be beaten into submission.

And so she endlessly beat life's piñata
with a stick of dream,
and hoped to find a plane ticket
amongst the false candies.

She's still swinging.


He couldn't stop her and he didn't try.
At the very least, he admired her charm;
the zest and gusto of her swing.

But she tired easily. And he didn't want
her to be tired.

Sometimes her laughter would burst into her
and she'd forget about ambition, forget about success.
Sometimes she would just bite into her own sweetness
like if a rose could smell itself. She loved her red,  
and was more intimate with her petals than her pulse.
Just as how she knew Paris better
than this Somewhere.

He thought she was crazy.
But so did she.
And they argued about this because
She thought he was crazy.
But so did he.

And so,
they disagreed about agreement
every day.

On a good day she would present a vicious smile,
the next paragraph in her never-ending thesis
that he doesn't intend to stop reading,
but somehow hasn't even started.
He never will.

On a bad day... well, a bad day
would lead to the end of a verse.


They would always eventually get over a bad day.

Coldness takes effort; warmth does not.
The knew this, but warmth often became
an uncomfortable singeing of their safety.
They ran at the thought
of such possibilities like tiny girls
from tiny spiders. Neither wanted to put
that eight-legged flame into a jar, but
somehow they both expected butterflies.

The ecosystem is such for good reason,
and that reason is balance.
Spiders and butterflies both constitute
that effortless, life-affirming warmth.

They dance around that truth as it is a bonfire.
Sometimes they even look bright at it. But never,
never do they touch that little Paris, that little flame;
their little flame, their little Paris.
Because that love is meaningless meaning,
and neither of them wants to be, or feel, wrong.
Even if they'd be wrong together.

Their hands never meet in that fire.
Their souls never burn in night's ecstasy.
And they are almost never born,
until tomorrow, when they smile once again,
and dance.

Come online loser.
It's another birthday poem for a friend.
Tawanda Mulalu Mar 2015
The last thing the Poet feels of her is the distinctive taste of biltong. It lingers. She had bought two packets at the café.  Their last kiss is made just before the airplane announces itself with a great roar of being. He watches it swallow her and turn her into a memory. And then the plane flies away. He can’t find a silver lining in the plane’s path, so he instead focuses on the gentle return of normality to his skin. Every centimetre that was previously pressed to his Muse is smoothing its goose bumps. The Poet’s heart goes back from verse to prose, just as how it was before she became the subject of his pen.

He turns to say an awkward “dumela” to the Muse’s grandmother. She responds with the tone of a grandmother greeting a boy who has just been making out with her granddaughter in front her: “dumela.” It probably doesn’t help that his hair isn’t combed. It probably doesn’t help that they have not met before. The Poet then asks the Muse’s brother for a ride to school. Now that the Muse is gone, it is time for him to begin studying for the colourless exams that were the subject of his existence before her. The Muse’s brother nods in agreement, and he walks out of the stale atmosphere of the airport with her family. The summer sunshine somehow manages to feel uninspired.

The journey from the airport stretches out like a goodbye that ought not to happen. It is slow, painful, and filled with empty promises of hope from her family. Her brother says she will visit during the Christmas season. The Poet knows she won’t- she can’t- but he has enough novels to keep him company.  They are riding in the same little red Volkswagen that often picked her up from school. If time is simultaneous, she is sitting next to him.

The car is full; time has only one direction, and its wheels stops in front of the school gates.

He says his farewells, closes the car door, and limps to the library to start working on maths equations with his classmates. He barely opens the library doors, barely greets his classmates, and with barely practiced nonchalance, barely explains that his Muse went off to another country. He picks up his scientific calculator and clicks open his pen to attack a math problem. Hours pass in numbers that stubbornly refuse to make sense in place of her. The Poet solves a problem, and then he doesn’t. He asks for help, and then he doesn’t. He laughs with his classmates, and then he doesn't: they have to go home now for lunch.

The Poet cannot go home. He has to wait for his mother to pick him up. He decides to walk out the school gates to eat at the Chinese restaurant. It is placed conveniently outside the school. He orders some dumplings and some noodles, and then tells the waitress that he is going to buy a newspaper at the filling station while he waits for his meal.

At the filling station counter are packets of biltong hooked onto a stand.
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