Poem by Nkateko Masinga
Mama, look what God made.
— J Cole
I have my mother’s eyes: Brown.
Abandoned cornfields awaiting rain.
The soil back home.
But it’s that don’t-fall-asleep-here kind of home,
shaped like a rocky boat that catches fire
even when water is abundant.
I have my father’s mouth: Full.
A gap between my front teeth.
I used to be afraid to smile
because of that gap.
Now I smile because
I want you to take me home
to my father when I am lost.
I have my own face: Oval.
The people in my family have round faces.
For a long time, long before I started
catching glimpses of my parents in my reflection,
I wondered if I belonged with them, to them.
In primary school, a boy said I had a face like a horse
and at lunchtime I begged God to make it round.
Upon returning from a funeral,
my maternal grandmother would dab ash
from the coal-stove onto my forehead.
I didn’t know what it meant. I never asked.
Now I think she was saying “you are still here”
because when she left this earth
nobody dotted my forehead with anything
and I have never felt so alone in my life.
How dare you say I don’t look Tsonga or Venda
when all I have left of my childhood
are the faces I stole features from?
“Eku sunguleni, Xikwembu xi tumbuluxile…”
“In the beginning, God created…”