rituals of healing

A Poem

By Nkateko Masinga


three times daily, our standing appointment
behind the store: your hands, the ointment,
my tattoo glistening as the itching subsides

for a few hours, a gentle respite as the light
hits my skin and you remark at the splendor
of the design I chose. this injury, unimposed 

on me but chosen, loved, is the one I marry.
men have offered declarations but not one 
of them will cling to me as this memento will

once it has completed its own ritual: peel,
scab, itch, repeat. all an attempt to heal
have you ever seen a more glorious scar

than this? what is the colour of my skin  
now that I have painted over the brown  
I was assigned at birth? I am part-red,

part-blue, part-green. fire, sky & earth.  
a pain I did not choose sent me here
to life, love, daughterhood, sisterhood

the pain I choose for myself is this: brief,
borne of my own design; it honours relief 
& asserts the permanence of love, of art.

at 7pm, closing time, we complete our ritual 
with a wash: antibacterial soap, your hands,
the ointment, my tattoo. my curated quartet.