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Knowing Me: Poems by Lindiwe Mpofu


You tell them you know me,
You’ve known me for years, you say
I’m polite, articulate and funny
Not like the others

What if you knew
that my politeness is carefully curated
in an effort not to offend you with my blackness
That I walk on eggshells to skillfully avoid
stepping on your porcelain toes

What if you knew
That I’ve had to become fluent in your language
In an effort to prove my intellect
That I’ve buried my tongue in order to master yours,
to become palatable to your taste-

brown on the outside but not all the way there

What if you knew
That my humor is the crutch that keeps me from falling
Each time you repeat that one Leon Schuster joke
You know, the one about the Zulus

I wish you knew me
Then again, I’m afraid of what it means
To be known by you

So I tell them I know you
I’ve known your family for years,
I say
They’re kind, loud and progressive-
Not like the others
But that’s a story for another day



from the buckets on our heads
to the stacked files in our hands
across the world, we are carriers

our very bodies carry the home
from which human life emerges
our backs carry aches and pains
from the weight the world imposes
our voices carry vibrations that
relieve, reprimand and revive

yet we prefix life giving words
with echoes of generational suppression
and conjugations of self-doubt
punctuated by endless apologies

“I’m not sure but-”
“It’s probably a silly question sorry-”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to offend-”
“I’m probably not making sense but-.”

see I am convinced that of all the things
we were created to carry,
meaningful opinions sandwiched
in unmerited apologies
are a burden we are called to lay down
at this moment in time



another day, another spell
of gut churning nausea-
morning sickness
from the growing fetus of loneliness
and the longing to return
to return to the soil that formed me,
the ground where my umbilical cord is buried

but home is sick

they say her lungs are crashing from suffocation
her heart failing from repression
yet her heart is aflame-
from her swelling belly
as a growing fetus of hope kicks
longing for life to emerge from the soil-
a resurrection of buried dreams

Poems © Lindiwe Mpofu
Image: cropped

Lindiwe Mpofu
Lindiwe Mpofu
Lindiwe Mpofu is a Zimbabwean immigrant in South Africa. Her writing is a reflection on being an educated black immigrant woman in post-apartheid South Africa.


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