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  Feb 2015 Zanele Tlali
maisie khan
Why do you seem so impossible to me? You are the epitome of all the things I should run from, but choose to love instead. You tell me about the magnificence that comes from your touch; tell me your hands are made of God as if I didn't already know. I look at you as all things heavenly, my lips are drenched in wine and yours are dripping with lust. You turn me in to all the things I want so desperately to become; all the things I fear of becoming. You are a mess of a human being but there are parts of me that I see in you, and you hide behind the heartless when in reality you just want someone to knock down the walls of your heart again. I do not want to waste away waiting for you; he who has been waiting for nothing in particular his entire life.

I want to know every inch of you, but even when we are centimetres apart you still appear to be so far away from me. The truth is that you just see me as some kind of divine forbidden fruit, and so you speak in tongues I don't understand and make me feel cheap and easy. It sickens me because I know you are just another to take advantage of my big heart. You want to take little pieces of me but not the whole of me.

Can't you see? I want to carve you in to my bones so I can hold you eternally, I want to inhale you like cigarette smoke and then never exhale again. You have been ******* me for days without even touching me, without even being in the same place as me. I want you and I want to love you but I refuse, I refuse, I refuse -

I will not be drowned again.

- m.k
  Feb 2015 Zanele Tlali
She drowned late last night
Not in water but in her own being
Her clothes were not wet, her hair was dry
When she walked she left no footprints behind her
This only went to prove her lack of existence
  Feb 2015 Zanele Tlali
Time is something that is always changing, yet it always moves at a constant pace. My story includes such a small period of time. In one day, there are twenty-four hours, and somewhere in those few hours of January 15th, 2011, my life changed in the blink of an eye. Within seconds, someone I love stopped breathing. It changed everything. But, my story begins a few hours before that.
Wake up. I always have to tell myself to wake up. I wake up and it is a beautiful Saturday. I walk into the living room of my house, where the sun is shining bright through all the windows and I feel like it is going to be a good day. I usually wake up on the weekend home alone, but this time I walk around until I find my dad and my little brother, Phillip.
Dad: “Phillip and I are going to a Valdosta State basketball game later today, if you would like to come.”
I immediately think of my best friend James. James is a part of my family. He got along with my dad and brother better than I did. The basketball game with them would be a lot easier to endure if James went along. He is the older brother I never had.
I pick up my phone and call James, to invite him to join us. He doesn’t answer. James always answers. His phone goes straight to voicemail. I remember a time in the past that I called James with a stupid boy dilemma. James was in the middle of football camp, but he called a timeout. He picked up the phone for me then. I am always James’ first priority, so something seems wrong. I call Drew, James’ best friend, and his phone goes straight to voicemail as well. Something definitely seems wrong. I try to convince myself that I’m overthinking. I always overthink and I always worry too much, so this could be nothing. James is just busy. He’ll call me back later.
An hour or two pass by without response from either James or Drew. As I am cleaning up my room trying to keep my mind busy, I receive a text message from my friend Emily.
Emily: “What’s wrong with James?”
Emmaline (me): “What are you talking about?”
Emily: “I see on Facebook that many people are writing on James’ wall, saying that they are praying for him. Why are people praying for him? What happened?”
Little did she know that I was asking myself the same questions. What in the world is going on!?
Emmaline (me): “Umm, I’m not sure. He hasn’t been answering my calls. I’ll try to find out.”
James was a huge part of the church community. He was the first person that brought me to the church I’ve been attending for the past three years. He was a mentor to me; if it weren’t for James I would not have found the faith that has saved me. After those texts messages, I decided to call someone from the church to see if they knew what was going on with him. Mackenzie answered my call.
Mackenzie: “James and Drew went out duck hunting this morning at a place called Ocean Pond, and James is missing. Drew is fine, but he doesn’t know where James is.”

My heart immediately dropped to my chest. The gut feeling I had been experiencing all day that something was wrong was rapidly increasing, and I suddenly couldn’t keep still.  
My thought processes jumped to visualize duck hunting. I thought, when you go duck hunting, it is a little different from hunting ground animals like deer. When you hunt ducks, you spend the entire time on a boat. You don’t go missing on a small boat. James wasn’t playing hide-and-seek. James being missing meant that he was lost somewhere in the water. The odds weren’t looking very good. Maybe I’m worrying too much, but I’m being rational. Right? I put my phone down and slowly slid out of my chair onto the floor. I lay on the floor for hours, crying. My brother came in from outside and just stared at me. My chest was on fire; I have never felt so much pain in my life. The amount of emotional pain transformed to a physical pain that I felt in the pit of my stomach. The sun that made me happy when I first woke up now began to burn my eyes. I felt like I was sinking, but in reality the only person sinking was my best friend, drowning in icy water.
When I could finally stop crying enough to talk, I call my mom. My mom was not home this weekend; she was at the beach with some of her good friends from college. She did not take the news as heavily as I did.
Mom: “He’s just sitting somewhere in the marsh where the water is really shallow. Someone will find him. He’ll be fine, I know he will.”
I begin to feel somewhat better. I tell myself that this does not have to be a death sentence. James could be fine. I decide to call Mackenzie from church again and invite her and her mom to my house to keep me company while we wait for news.
Hours and hours pass by, yet still no news comes. The church and community decides to hold a prayer session at a local park for all the people worried about James. Mackenzie, her mom and I drive out to the park. Hundreds of people were at the park. All of them were there for James. All of us stood in a circle, teary-eyed, and prayed. I have never seen my community come together like that. Rival schools and teammates, people old, young, and teenage. Teachers, preachers, friends, athletes, fathers, mothers, so many people were at the park for James.
We went around in the circle and each person told their story of how much James meant to them. James was a brother to many. He was a mentor, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a pal to laugh with. James was the one person that convinced a girl to graduate from high school. James was the friendly face that ate lunch with a boy that was alone and contemplating suicide. I had no idea that James meant so much to people other than me.
All it took was seconds, maybe minutes for James to drown. The water was below freezing. The gear that he was wearing was built to weigh him down in order to be able to wade in shallow waters. In deeper waters, he would surely and quickly sink. He drowned quickly, and within seconds he stopped breathing. However, it took search and rescue a month to recover his body. Days of worry and prayer turned into weeks. I had to return to school and try to go on with my life, as if I didn’t feel like it was all falling apart.

Finally, one crisp February morning, a search dog found my James’ body.

I was in my Advanced Placement Environmental Science class, and my phone rang from a number of different people. I went to the bathroom to return a call and found out that someone found my best friend’s dead body. I knew it wasn’t smart to hold on to any kind of hope that he was alive, but knowing he was actually dead made the situation suddenly very real. I tried to return to class, but I ended up sitting right beside the door, crying harder than ever. I had to go out to Ocean Pond, where I spent most of my time for the past month watching divers search for him. I had to go out there and see it.
By the time I arrived at the site, there was nothing left to see. James’ body had been recovered and I would never see him again. All that was left was a teary funeral, and abrupt good-byes that I wasn’t ready to give. To this day I don’t know how to say good-bye to James. I visit his grave, and I don’t know how to leave the picture of his face.
Losing someone you so deeply love so quickly is probably one of the most excruciating human experiences. I am so thankful that James left behind such a beautiful story, and such a powerful legacy. The first day I met James, he told me, “Hey girl. You know, I love you. I really do. I would take a bullet for you.” When someone says those kinds of things to you without even knowing you for twenty-four hours, it feels strange. But, James knew time meant everything. He knew that all it takes is minutes, seconds, to change someone’s life forever.
The thing that is so astonishing about James’ story, is that he understood how quickly everything can change. When James was alive, a fellow student of his died in a motorcycle crash. James was devastated that he had not reached out to this boy before it was too late. That night, in a note on Facebook entitled “The Clock is Ticking,” James wrote a short paragraph that showed the depth of his understanding of life. He wrote, “Take time to love someone. Today, Tomorrow, For the rest of your life. Because when that unexpected day comes that they pass on, you'll be left wondering what you could've done better. How you could have made them feel more welcome, and show that you do care for them. Don't wait until it's too late like I did. Show the love that Jesus has for you to everyone you see. Let your heart break for what breaks His. Christ is enough. Let Him show you life. You never know who He may touch through you. It is so sad that it takes a tragedy like this to comprehend how our days are numbered. Only He knows. Keep your faith in Him. He will bless you beyond belief. Our job is right now. This very second. So often, God gives me a little nudge towards someone.. and I put it off until the next day.. and then the next and then the next. Stop stalling. God put us on this earth for HIS glory. Not ours.. and so many times, the things I do always point back to me and my stupid self righteousness. So do something with me. Everyone. If this just touches one person, I will have done my job. Don't stall. Judgement is a heart beat away.”
  Feb 2015 Zanele Tlali
Hello,  I was born at the exact death of the 20th century
I was also born witness of the birth of the 21th, a new glory
And all events i am rhyming here are for me history
Since they were all buried when I had no memory
At, least supposed to but my case was desultory
back to 1973

A baby was born
between death and life he was torn
And to an unforeseen path he was sworn
Out of the hush of the womb, his ears perceived every sound as a horn

1977 and my first joy
The old place looked coy
he, now Simon, was playing with a toy
as every night, a ritual he seemed to enjoy
Again, that toy and only that toy he did employ
Me, I could not get my eyes of a doll, everything else you could destroy
The doll that did not exist to the boy

And deep inside of me i wish i could brush her hair
But I could not even feel air
my eyes tore up and my hopes i decided to spare
suddenly a flare
And I saw three circles, I swear
This seemed rare
Even under shock, I could see Simon sitting there
I did not know why of him only i was aware
And about my existence, he did not care
This did not seem fair
He suddenly and brutally shook his hair
Like if he was hearing a blare
And his pain i hoped to share
but it was pain he could bare

He recovered in a blink of an eye
at first he turned his head and seemed shy
Then he took the doll but why?
he brushed her hair and care he did apply
I would do it the same way if i was a guy
Oh My!
Thrill of joy really made me cry
It is the first time that reality to my wishes did comply
I don't have wings but I believe i can fly
The butterflies in my tummy made me reach the sky
Then, he stopped, held his neck wry
And without knowing where to look said hi

1989 and I was still confused
at times I was amused
at times my soul was abused
The time when he did what i refused
All the time that was misused
But wounds have bruised
and everything was excused

Like when Simon sought privacy
And even from me he wanted to hide
but that showed inefficacy
And in discovering his body he took pride

He was as hot as the sun
And he seemed to have a lot of fun
His sight was fixed in the fashion of a look at a loved one
I needed to know my body to get what was done

My body was totally different, built in an other way
More like those girls that took him away
I felt jealous how he chose with whom to play
I was mad, with him i did not want to stay
I wanted my own body with no delay

And in this mixture of feelings I saw it again
This 2000 is driving me insane
And I bet he will feel it too in his brain
to calm the pain, this time he had to crane

He stood up and went to his sister's room
He was looking for something specific, I presume
He was looking for a costume
Girly underwear, a dress and perfume
I suddenly felt lighter than a plume
The senses that I do not have felt a boom
I felt like home I assume
I came into being, I was out of the gloom
It was short, my existence waved away, my dreams were spume
Finally he slept, all his energy and mine he did consume

And that one night was dramatic
That one dream was tragic
Simon seemed ecstatic
He also seemed older but I did not panic
He was not alone and it got problematic
He was with a young girl, she was static
I was the girl and it got enigmatic
I saw the flash again, this time it was emphatic
And for the first time I slept, it was systematic
And for four years, I dreamed, it was monochromatic

After I woke up all my confusion found explanation
And I learned a whole lot from this dream's narration
And to understand it all, it took me gobs of concentration
Finally, from all my pain and sorrow I found salvation
That 2000 I kept seeing will be the end of my gestation
Simon was not a mystery anymore, with him I had a relation
He was my father, and his dream found explication
During those two years, I listened to a long oration
And I learned tons about my father's future reputation
Still, some issues needed cogitation
What was I doing in this generation?
What caused this weird agitation?
Did Simon feel the same sensation?
Oh! shall I call him daddy now, his true appellation?
I was in sedation
Thinking about the identity of my mother gave me palpitation

1993 and my father was in college
He was so hopeful yet so depressed
He spent days and nights seeking knowledge
but he did not he was going to be the best

I felt his pain, his fear
his future didn't seem clear
I wanted to tell him about his great year
That he will be a pioneer
His success will be sincere
And his talent will be admired throughout the sphere

But I talked facts and he heard inspiration
And what he will accomplish became now his fixation
He could feel the joy of the standing ovation
The one where I stood to proclaim his vocation
He fell in the temptation
And enjoyed the fruits of his ongoing plantation
He sensed my presence and crashed in frustration

1997 And the years left were few
And I did not know how i'll get through
My father was traveling to Peru
When he drowned in her eyes, they were blue
This seemed like a deja vu
This was my mother, this was my only clue
And all along, her he tried to woo
I was excited to meet someone new
someone that could be my mother, my debut
Of them being together I enjoyed the view
But my guesses were untrue
And from this relationship he withdrew
And the two of them said Adieu

1998 and all this is approaching its end
My father was lonely with no friend
and to him love and amiability I did send
And his knowledge of me did ascend
but he was seeing me as his girlfriend
I admit, this situation did offend
I wish he could comprehend

Maybe he was confused  
I wanted to show him how gorgeous I will be
But only the beauty he did see
And his body he abused
To materialize what he pictured as beauty

He named me Stephany
Without understanding my entity
One time, he went out not sure of his identity
He first went somewhere I did not catch regretfully
And then He bought a necklace that said Stephany**

I knew it was for me
I felt life and joy
but I felt freezing
like if I were in cold storage
I did not know why?

1999 and it's the end of March
If my dreams were true
Simon should ******* soon
But he did not
Nothing out of the usual
Except one random thing
A few days ago, I felt warmth
I felt life, I felt agitation
But everything I could perceive was normal

2010, Now I am ten
Winter again
Cold and freezing as I was then
I know my father, I never met him, I will stay zen
May I find him and take away the cold Amen
Till then
I will immortalize it all with my pen.
  Feb 2015 Zanele Tlali
Here's a little story about one of my best friends, and I
We've gone through the lowest of the lows, to the ecstasy peak of highs

It all started during the second half of 12th grade
Immediately a beauty caught my eye, fixated my gaze
Her aura was not normal and I immediately needed to know her name.
It was in that film class, where we set the stage.

I tried to back away, even though it wasn't what I felt in my heart
There was just something about her that struck me right from the start
I knew in her life movie, I wanted to play a part.

Not a supporting actor, not a stagehand.

I wanted that lead role, and so I took a stand
We then embraced our connection, and took on life, hand in hand

There were clashes with the cast around us
Mental strains clogged the drains and caused too much fuss
But we knew enough to build off of what we had, trust.
That and a whole lotta love, thankful for every moment
That I was blessed with this star from above.

But we were young, high-strung, and intoxicated by our surroundings
When we shut it all out, removed all doubt,
Together on a cloud it was no less than astounding.
A future we were founding, shined brighter than sun beams
It's in those fields where life feels better than your dreams.

Existence was constantly testing us, arresting us in prisons that felt so grim
I was fighting a battle against hateful people, one I could not win.
Voices from outside led us astray, to sin
An alcoholic's logic, made me wanna get a bat and swing
But we sparked a new beginning when we dismissed other opinions.

She was my sunshine, and I let her know
We nurtured our beings, continued to grow
Anywhere she wanted me, I would surely go
We never stopped to look back, groovin' with the flow

We never meant any harm
but sometimes had to disarm each other
when the alarms were blaring.
There were occasions that were downright scary,
But peace was found in each others' eyes,
Staring into the depths of one another's soul
We physically held onto each other determined to never let go.
Despite the rain, shine, or snow
We've weathered all weather patterns
Our boat we continued to row

Merrily merrily, wait where are we?

2 hearts, minds, bodies, and souls
Our blissful union had been on a roll
But spending life on a bus, depressed, and sleep-deprived was surely taking it's toll
Got me drinking and thinking there'd be a tomorrow I wouldn't know.
Became resentful with a head full of dreadful hypotheticals
Unto none I could bestow.

Someone drowned in the nearby river
I figured I would join them after a night of abusing my liver
I immediately considered, how I felt during her moments of weakness by the cliffs
I'd've been so hurt emotionally it would seem as if internally I was pummeled by fists
I then put a pen within my grip, now connecting the dots, it led to this.

I once pushed her away, now it was her turn.
I tried holding on too tight constantly watching the bridge burn.
Impending doom filled the room inside my head
Sorrow was now the only one to lay in my bed
Zooming down a road I knew to be a dead end

When the time came, the perfect vision of our future shattered
I still kept fighting for love, but felt it didn't matter
The canvas was torn, the paint was all splattered.
I felt as if it were a sick joke,
Causing my inner demons laughter chasing a happily-ever-after

She would still call on me, whenever I was needed
Like temporary medicine even though I felt that I was bleeding.
Never heeding warnings from friends,
I felt like nothing more than a means to an end.

I lost the two that were closest, but they found each other.
In that fire I was but a scorned lover,
Cast them off my island,
While they didn't know where my life or mind went.
Lived life fast, one could say hell-bent
Then spent a lot of time, with another girl.
Decided this was gonna be my new world.
Although, it was doomed right from the start.
I was this girl's "soul mate"
but she couldn't hold my whole heart.
I tried forcing it, picturing another forever
I hurt us both, my mind is far too clever.
We were both too hurt from the past,
I knew it was a matter of time, it wasn't meant to last.
The concept of hurting someone, I just could not grasp,
2 and a half years sure went fast.

The original girl would sometimes pop in my dreams,
It was never angry but I didn't know what it could mean.
Shortly after the breakup came in girl number three,
We matched, the fun times with glee
Surely we were on a loving spree.

One night it changed, my whole being felt strange.
Inside was a feeling that I just could not tame.
I was at work stuck on a trip down memory lane
Fiery passion was the game
I knew deep inside I needed that again.
Hurt to another came down like rain,
Never intended despite how much I could explain.

I needed to let go of past pains and invite love to stay.

I messaged the girl that was once the brightest star in my solar system
We let our feelings out and again our spirits were in rhythm
It was a new beginning
Even contacted my old best friend n let him know how I missed him.
I again tried to hug her pains away and listened to every word she'd say
Common contact was slowly turning the nights into days
Replaying memories and the talks of forevers with old and new lovers.
We knew once again, that we always had, us.

Memories irreplaceable
I smile when I look out the windowsill
Reminiscing on the old thrills.

Nights spent watching sappy movies alone
while she lay with her head on my chest to the beat of my corazon.  
We once had sanctuary in each other, a home.
So many times I held her with optimism while she cried
Mascara marks on a hoodie of mine have stood the test of time
In her once upon a time was the only place I could confide
Arguments and water balloon fights.
Sneaking around to see each other always felt so right.
Halloweens and the moments in between,
Knowing the grass on the other side wasn't any more green.
Beds that were beyond places of rest,
Places where our cosmic beings could confess, love.
The best of rollercoasters had us addicted moreso than any drug.
I let tears fall in front of her once, regarding the loss of my dad
She held me oh so close and told me I'd be the best father anyone could have.
We've grown with time, and I'm happy to see her still rain down sunshine.
I'm happy that we once had each other as lovers,
and have each other as friends.
The past is past, but the stories will never end.
  Feb 2015 Zanele Tlali
Terry Collett
The silence of her frightens you. You stare at her laid out body and feel the want to hold her and kiss her but you know she’s dead and that she will feel nothing of your love again or sense your warmth. Drowned. So suddenly, so quickly. There one moment laughing and full of life and then gone. You gaze at her, at her flesh, at her fingernails. She kept herself so clean, so neat and tidy. The fingernails are trimmed exactly, no rough edges, no uneven part, all just so. Perfection. You run a finger along her ribs; sense the bones beneath the skin. So young, so fresh, so new. You lean forward and kiss her brow. Cold and still. The ginger hair with its boyish cut feels soft as if you had just washed and combed it. No, some other did that, combed it so. You stand back and take in each aspect of her. Her head is reclined upon a small pillow so that the head is tilted forward slightly; the eyes are closed as if in sleep, the pale eyelids like small smooth shells. You lean forward slowly and kiss each one. Secretly you hope that she wakes up and opens her eyes, but she doesn’t, she just lies there motionless, lifeless. You gave birth to her, brought her into the world, heard her first cries, saw her first clenched and unclenched fists, the first sign of her lips opening and closing seeking your *******. She seeks them no more. Seeks nothing now; all seeking is at an end. Her thin arms are laid down by her sides, the hands slightly turned outward as if to say, look at me now Mother, see I am perfected. Not yet a woman, but just about to enter that arena, just about to start her menstrual cycle, her first feeling of breast about to begin. All stopped before it could blossom; stilled in the bud. She has your nose, not her father’s. Your lips, not his. Those lips, wanting to kiss and be kissed, wanting once to ****, are still and chilled now. You want to kiss them, want them to open and her words to speak, her tongue to poke out at you as she would often in fun. The lips are sealed. She speaks no more, nor laughs nor cries. You cradled her when she had her first bleed, that frightened her, thought she was about to die. You ought to have warned her, have mentioned the facts of life to her, but you didn’t, you wanted her to remain your little girl, your baby, not become a woman, not grow up and become lost to you. You bite your lips. She is lost to you now. Lying there on that marble slab like so much wasted flesh. You cry. For the first time you begin to let the tears flow, let them just come, no holding them back now, no more pretence, no more trying to be brave, you feel them on your cheeks, the dampness, the eyes watering to such a degree that is becomes a blur. You wipe your eyes with your hand; want to see each aspect of her before they cover her over again with the sheet, before she’s taken from your sight forever. You can hear yourself cry now, the sound is wounding, as if someone tore at your soul. No one comes; they leave you alone, leave you to this last meeting, this final confrontation with your daughter. How still she is. So motionless. How pale, how thin. Why her? Why now? You lean close to her chest, put your ear there in the hope you may hear her heart beat, some small hope that the doctors are wrong, but there is no heartbeat, nothing. She looks at peace, you think. Yes, at peace. As if in sleep. She used to sleep like that when you would enter her room to see if she was all right at night and there she would be sleeping like this. As if nothing could disturb. Nothing to disturb. Nothing. Your tears have fallen on her cheek as if she was crying too. You wipe them gently away with your fingers. You whisper to her. You utter words in her ear. Save a place for me where you are, you say softly, keep a place for me to be with you. You want her to nod her head or open her lips and say, yes, Mother, of course I will. But she doesn’t, she just lies motionless and silent. The silence of her frightens you. You move away as the door opens and the others enter. They gather around dressed in black like you, as silent as she, but alive, thinking, feeling, sensing, unlike her. You wish you could be laying beside her now, side-by-side, close in death as you had been in life, hands touching. They begin to murmur, the others, gently whisper to you, time to go, time to leave her be. But you can’t, the effort of leaving tears at your very being, drags at your soul, pulls you into the darkness. Someone covers her with the white sheet and she is gone and all you see is the outline of perfection dressed in white like some bride only there is no wedding, no bridegroom, only the dark reaper, edging his way closer into the room as you are pulled gently away and out of the small room with the last image of your daughter sealed in your mind.
Some have aid this is a short story others that it is a prose poem. Eitherway, it has elements of both.
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