the situation is clinical

somewhere in 2008 i sent friends and family a short account of a visit to hillbrows’ HIV testing site. to cut it short it was a nightmare, surreal. the counsellor sat me down, asked my age, the number of sexual partners blah blah. he then broke down HIV for me, this is what it is, blah. to tie a bow on it, dude then asked where my family was and if i had any younger siblings who would take care of me when i get too sick to do so. he hadn’t even drawn blood then. what followed was a small confrontation, he shut me up by stating, ‘i wouldn’t be so cocky before my ‘positive’ comes back.’

i took the test and walked down to the johannesburg art gallery. kay hassan eased my anger, his fathers’ music room reminded me of home, the people there who would have to take care of me if the clairvoyant counsellor had had a clearer crystal ball. i’d seen other counsellors before mr doom and gloom, they had been informative and quick to ease my nerves. he was a bad apple, i filed a complaint.prick

today i tried my local clinic on for size. with ‘kick start’ clinics closed i’ve struggled to find a testing site that’s free and near and last year i missed my december first test. woodstock community health centre sits just on the other side of mountain road. when electricians arrived too early for my husband to open for them, i ran home to open up and leave them with a short ‘to do’ before zipping back up the road to join the freebie queue. after my folder was called i waited a short 45 minutes (govt health care people, catch up) before i was asked to see a counsellor. as i stepped in another gentleman was called.

‘no, we’re not together,’ i offered.

‘yes, that’s fine. just both of you come in.’

‘oh, ok’

i’m in this weird room with a counsellor, a dude i met on the bench outside and i’m about to disclose my sexual history. i’m about to know how many people mr bench has been with. this is all too heady. i sit and giggle awkwardly. i’m thinking of my one night stands, i realize i don’t know as much about any of them as i’m about to find out about this stranger. i giggle some more then ask, ‘but how?’ at which i burst out laughing. the counsellor raises an eye brow, i cross and uncross my legs then clench my butt cheeks, got to stop laffing.

‘how old are you?’

the counsellor is barking at mr bench, who looks at me and i shrug my shoulders. a quiet knock introduces mr bench’s friend, his translator. the man is french. there’s four of us in the room and the translator is hot and about to find out i’m pretty easy and live around the corner. i need a smart phone. for ten minutes i sit listening as questions bounce from the counsellor to the translator and then finally to mr bench. it’s amusing, it’s someone else’s nightmare.

‘have you ever had anal sex?’

‘i’m sorry, i’m going to have to wait outside.’

my shoulders are shaking, my chest is tight. i am clenching an unclenching my fists. i’m biting at my lower lip and i want to punch the daylights out of our counsellor. my knees buckle a bit as i sit at the bench outside the office. i didn’t get mr bench’s name but i know a few things about him that should remain in the safety of ‘doctor patient privilege.’ i sat through it, i laughed about it. yes, i shouldn’t have been put in that position but it’s one thing to need a translator to buy milk and bread and quite another to have a second person know your status before you do. mr bench is just one dude, a home affairs glitch. shame. i’m just a sweet little asshole, who should have used better judgement. when they leave i can’t look either one in the eye, i’m ashamed and can’t wait to half die.

my turn comes and i ask the counsellor why they asked us both to come in.

‘it’s a faster turn around.’

if they prick us, do we not bleed?

the room you made


how daring,
that you would make a room
so wide,
place my seat in it
and ask that i make up my mind
whether i leave or stay.

the cheek,
to make a room
so wonder-filled
and ask that i be tenant
live on month to month
and occasionally flirt
with the idea of making it
a home for this…

bless you always,
for conjuring mirages,
walls too short to hold
all that kicks within me.
may you never
meet your equal
in this treachery.

love – long distance

pam's brotherMy brother started running in my mother’s womb. This is the first lie. There will be more as the story progresses, I will only own up to this one. My brother never stopped running, he was born too early, a month, a week and 3 days before the doctor’s original prophesied dates – he came tumbling out and disturbed my grandfathers’ prayer.

This would be my brother, the rest of his life. He started crawling at nine and a half months and by 13 months was being chased down the street. My parents had to hire young nannies – the one who had nursed and cared for my two sisters and I, was old and suffered from arthritis – she could never catch up with him. My brother climbed, he curled his feet on curtains and grabbed and groped his way to the top of the rail, then slinked back down again, belly first, taunting gravity. My mother screamed and cried a lot between ages 9 months and 12 – she wore a crazed nervous expression and drank sugared water every other hour.

At age two, my brother packed a plastic bag – a white one with a red ‘OK’ on it and bid us farewell. We’d just sat down for dinner, he would have closed the door behind him and maybe even pulled open the gate but he was too short to reach either handle. I watched him climb up concrete wall, scratch his knee and elbow as he fought his way up. My mother screamed at him from inside the house, my father poured himself a stiff one – my sisters and i laughed ourselves hoarse. We loved our brother, his little antics brought us much mirth.

At age 12 after many attempts to ‘run away from home’ my brother woke up screaming from a nightmare and asked ‘If I went to Lesotho, would that be such a bad thing?’

We’d never seen Lesotho, we started crying that we’d miss him – our father called a friend and my mother checked the calendar. The following year, my brother left the family for good – he moved to a place we’d only ever seen in dramas – my father was relieved, my mother made new friends and every holiday my brother had some other family to visit for the two weeks or the month.

I think he’s in Havana now, met a girl when he was in Martinique, fell in love and followed her there. He claims he makes a living climbing things – I don’t know what to believe – I’ve only ever known my brother’s back and the bottom of his foot – I’ve never met the man he is.

‘look, it’s a [ ]!!’

‘look, it’s a [ ]!!’

[ ] are to be eaten, to be chewed with molars as if one does not have incisors. [ ] should be popped into the mouth, to bounce off the palate and land between ready mincers. [ ] ought to be chewed like cashews, until all there is, is a messy mushy pulp that’s easy to swallow. [ ] are not a fruit. there are no [ ] trees or shrubs. [ ] do not grow like creepers, scaling walls and throttling other species in a race for the sun.

one can cook [ ] although it has not been established whether or not [ ] are raw or ready. [ ] might not even be plant life for this too has not been established. [ ] might after-all be a hibernating species of some animal too timid to uncurl in our hands. wait, do [ ] fit into ones palm? are [ ] not bigger in size?

[ ] might be better for building things like cars and homes and scooters. [ ] might even be better suited to pulling boogers from hairy nostrils. [ ] are to be examined by a highly skilled childless task force made up, in equal parts, of scientists, soldiers, sunday school teachers and salmon farmers. [ ] might after all be bombs and it would make better sense to have them detonate in the hands of these lunatics. no?

but [ ] are to be eaten i am sure.

——- ———- ———-

what [ ] are you talking about?

[ ] are orange/blue, this is the first clue. in a quite suburb, north of carmarthenshire, [ ] have been reported to be quite the nuisance. residents are in disagreement as to how it is that [ ] are causing the reported nuisance. some home owners claim to hear [ ] wailing clear and true into the night, others claim [ ] run amok in the streets, up turning bins and smashing in store fronts, some seniors have even reported [ ] claims of sexual harassment from [ ], especially when they try to cross the road close to busy intersections.

the mayoral spokesperson for the district of bin has issued a statement that all allegations made against [ ] will be treated with the highest priority. The municipality remains confused however by how it is that [ ] could execute half the crimes laid against [ ].

‘it is known that [ ] have not the legs, mouths or arms to throw things, scream or grope the elderly. that littler still is understood of [ ] makes these cases harder to prosecute. are [ ] not a single body? are [ ] more like us the more we know them or less so?’

[ ] are to be left in the bogs, of this i am sure.

mowgli and raksha

are the stories told by grandma on a moonless night less true than those told in the moonlight?
are stories spun with hunger-sour spit less sweet than those spat by a fat belly grandma?
how much does spittle matter in the natter of friends?
and like that we were sent to bed, to cuddle our empty tums to suck on our thinning thumbs.

and the wind cried mary

Forty years after his passing Jimi Hendricks lives. Jimi was a dirty uncle, one who crooned “Foxy Lady” to a girl 6 years old in a house filled with adults slurring expletives of the extra terrestrial kind.

I had no idea what he meant or who he was talking to. As plain as the lyrics are, the censorious nature of the song, at least for a six year old, were lost to me. What made the song special, what earned Hendrix a place in my heart like no other musician was the way he whispers ‘foxy’ at the beginning of the song and expression itself.

What got me going was imagining that he couldn’t go to sleep without his piece close by, that he wanted it like he wanted that ‘foxy lady’. I was and am still convinced that when he sung that song it was dedicated to an elusive riff, that itched at the tip of his fingers refusing to connect heart string to guitar string.

With that conclusion I had cured a palate for a music crediting Fishbone, TV on the Radio and other punk/rockers of the charcoal kind. Jimi was a dirty uncle, who synthed me to sleep, set me jumping on furniture and earned me much punishment- you don’t just hop around on rent-to-own property.

RIP Jimi.

First posted at Pan African Space Station.

waving goodbye for hello

today we buy time
we find a pin
for the sun
to hold it up longer
in the sky
we fool an entire population
that it is still midday
when she has long departed
we purchase that hour past
and do nothing in it
but sleep
and dream of more days to sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep
nuzzling her forever
in that sleep
forever in that sleep.

pamella dlungwana – sweets for thohoyandou

I was seven and she was six. She had came to visit, spend time with her big sister. I was too busy to spend all my days with her. She loved to play outside, roam the rivers and catch frogs and fireflies like she did at home with our sister and brother but that wasn’t my scene. She tried to teach me games, skipping rope, umagalobha and amatshe but I sucked at every one. I always wanted to be inside, alone. I felt bad, not being able to join in on her fun and so everyday I’d come home with a sherbet, a lollipop, something she could squeeze from a wrapper and eat in the dark. Ayanda would rush to the gate to greet me in the afternoon or I’d find her at the bus stop waiting to walk me home, her arms open for a hug. I thought at first that she was after the sweeties in my jumper but discovered that she was excited to have me back. This devotion was new to me. I didn’t know how to hug her back or say simple things like, “I’ll miss you” or “I love you too.”

In the evenings as she washed getting into her nightie I would tell my sister stories. I would lie to her and she would laugh. When I was attacked by a waif of a girl who took me for everything, I told my sister I had met a giant on my way home. I told her he had fangs. I said I’d fought him till he broke down and told me he had a sick child and so I decided to give him everything I had. She thought that I was brave, that I was kind. She told me this as she pressed toothpaste onto the brush, I stopped her before she could wet the brush, reached into the front pocket of my jumper and pressed two socks of sherbet into her wet palm. I leaned in and kissed someone else, for the first time in my life.

Today my sister is at the dentist. I can imagine her panic and fear but I’m glad she’s old enough to brave it on her own.

pamella dlungwana – kapstadt: no lights, fast moving cars, hawkers, cti(finishtheacronymyourdamnselfyouenablingpieceofcityscum)

It’s a piece of turd
On the corner of Plein
And Spin
It lounges there
having steamed once
When it was fresh.
Now, it’s a curly lump
Of brown
With corn flecks
Just a’ chilling on the sidewalk.

Whose shit is this?
In the middle of town?
Who shat here and left?
What did they wipe their ass with?
Who will clean this shit?
What will they eat after?
How many piles of city shit will they clean in their lifetime?
Who will honor them with an award?
Who gets the award, ‘most shitty city turds evicted’?
Who gives the award?
Who sits on the crappy panel judging who deserves the accolade?
What is the criteria?
How do those who do not get the award feel?
I should have run after more shitty city turds and made my family proud?
What runs through the winners’ mind?
“I’d like to thank my mother, God, my teachers for never letting me forget
that all I’d ever be worth was a pile of shit?”

see the winner shitty shuffle off stage
shame the winner for taking home,
a fecal-fashioned piece of wood.