Tiny fires that light up the sky
For Lufuno Mavhungu
You leave the house reluctantly
Outside, underneath the lick of sun
Looking back at Ma waiting on the porch
You steal a final glance to collect a remembrance of her
A portrait etched into the back of your eyelids –
This way, her image will carry you through the day.
To you, this tradition of a daily exodus to school
Is similar to leaving the womb all over again
But still you open the rusty gate,
Its aged swearing a familiar song
Bidding you farewell as you exit the yard.
Amongst the rush of other pupils, you swallow regret
You know what is about to come, how dark autumn can get
And you are not prepared for this, you can’t be ready for this.
Solely unsheathed from your mother’s touch
The big world gulps you up greedily
Renders you as another face of an endless crowd
A mere statistic, a child no more.
Who knew of the wars you kept hidden under your skin?
First the blackness of Africa – a historical wound
The shadow of apartheid that follows you around –
The very reason why, in some suburbs,
Your name will be flushed into oblivion
Scrubbed off before the end of the week.
Another war is being launched against your beauty
A knife drawn deeper than your own history with skin
This unceremonious fray you thought you couldn’t win
But simply by breathing, in speaking out, and being
You hold a fist up high – timeless and endless
This is how you proclaim future hope
The gift of reason and tolerance, unequivocally
To all, even those still blinded by self-deceit.
Later, when the day grows tired
The rusty gate back home exhales differently when opened
An unfamiliar creed without your touch
Don’t you linger or haunt, your exit was not in vain
This time, this, we won’t forget.