By Shameelah Khan
Every Poem I write is about you.
I had attended a conference around Gender-Based Violence in Cape Town two years ago when Malika-Ndlovu stepped into the room and her poetry-filled up the entire space. All the panel members invited had delivered work from an academic viewpoint. But her disruption was poetic. She spoke about women’s pain as if it were a part of her own journey. She was talking us through our own journeys and we were responsive. Later on, the panel had hosted a discussion without her presence on the stage. Her poetry was the break inbetween the presentations. We were then, as an audience, given the space to ask questions to the panellists. Her question was raw, vulnerable and hit very close to home, “Why is art and storytelling never included into this space?”
Sundays are a traditional routine. My grandmother prepares the food, always a few types of dishes. Today she is preparing fish-curry with homemade roti and a side of kababs with fresh lemon and sweet yellow-rice. She is also preparing a sweet almond, sago and cinnamon drink called “boeber”- a Cape Malay delicacy. Her father owned the first ever –Indian restaurant in Johannesburg during Apartheid where her mother spent endless hours preparing the Indian cuisine. They are long gone, but their stories fill the four walls of the warm fading-mustard coloured kitchen of my grandmother’s home. A home we travel to from the suburbs every Sunday for traditional food. Our traditional food. On this Particular Sunday, I realise that I had never before seen my great grandfather. My grandparents are overly excited to show me my heritage, to dictate to me their lineage. My lineage. The photographs are splattered on the red-stained floor and I am surrounded by memories. I am surrounded by my mother as a young girl swimming in the ocean for the first time, by the meals served in the restaurant, by my grandmother on her wedding day and then there it was. I reach out and hold in my hand the only picture my grandfather has of his parents.
I take a series of still images around my house that you are no longer in. The first is that of the keys, where you would place yours after work. The second is that of the bathtub you loved to lay in, bubbles filled to the top. The third is in your kitchen, which I still call your kitchen. The last is the oil- painting of your body that still hangs in the house.
“September is almost here and it seems the worst of the cold has gone. The sun has been shining brightly these last few days, warming my spirit and lifting my mood. My apologies for the delay, Shameelah. I thought about you often: What I would write. Books I wanted to tell you about. Thoughts on your stories and your film. Questions I wanted to ask you. Things I wanted to tell you.”
(You, August 21, 2016, 18:14)
We were seated in our Creative Writing lecture in the dusty home-like space of Wits. The question was asked, “How do we write a creative essay?” We all gave answers that we thought would suffice- but I missed something. I raised my hand and said, quite confidently, “what about an introduction, a body and a conclusion?” She smiled, “I am glad you said that. Rule to always remember when writing creative essays- there is never an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.”
In this Issue:
Clara’s song – Juwayriya Bemath
MOTHER – Sbu Simelane
Enclosed walls – Nkwana Joshua
1095 – Veli Mnisi
TINY FEET – Veli Mnisi
The Green Uno – Shameelah Khan
Biko’s Dead: A Poem for Steve Biko – Sinenhlanhla Shelembe
Mediterranean Man and Train to Everywhere – Priyanka Roopnarain
Nenekuş (Meditating with Flowers) – Elif Fatima
Tea – Feeya Asmal
Forepaws and Seventeen Years Ago – Nicholas Bruce
Durban through my lense – Halima Samad
THE CARELESS SEAMSTRESS – Nkateko Masinga