“We hold a mirror and it’s everyone’s face there.” K.Heeger
For those who missed out on the 1st installation of the 3rd season of poetry in the air.
Kadhija Tracey Heeger opened what will be the first of many interviews with Myesha Jenkins on SAfm, every week from 11:45 to 12:00
She shares her experience with us and explains why she believes there is room for poetry on main stream media.
“I love the feel of the show” she says. There is a beautiful intimacy and Myesha’s voice creates this. I felt like I was having tea with a friend somewhere in a garden. And yes, there is absolutely a place for poetry in mainstream media. Many people are discovering their voices, not all of this translates into poetry, yet those of us who use poetry to express, we know how important it is to say these things. It has been proven that people are hungry to hear these stories. Stories that often connect deeply to their lives, like an echo of self, a reflection of us out there in someone else. It’s a human connection. And even though the poet may write about his/her own experience, we hold a mirror and it’s everyone’s face there. We all need witness to our lives, poets make that possible. Artists make that possible.
If you enjoyed the poems she read on air, you’re in luck as we have all 3 of them for you.
1. Aunty Beaty (for Beatrice Heeger my father’s sister)
I knew here once.
She walked like polyester against stocking and smelled of geraniums.
My aunty Beaty.
She always over cooked the rice.
Her house had the melancholy light of long forgotten happy things.
It struck me that she found herself a memory too soon.
And being a memory one begins to mimic an almost life.
At 6 I feared that house.
And she scared me as the prematurely dead do.
I was after all too early for the experience of dead things.
Once I heard her cackle frigid as a dry bone.
It was the kind of sound that prised itself into one’s personal Pandora’s box.
Everyone has a box like that in a house like this. (gesture to body)
At 48, I journey into her house again.
I start at the beginning?
I come to her differently.
Uncovering her beauty.
Her garden overrun with tangled roots and tree-arms.
Behind a rotting wall in From Road Wynberg.
The Khoi pond and my grandfather Nunkie hammering something or other
in the outer room leading off the stoep.
At 48 how bad can she be.
At 48 I enter her space.
Sense her flesh, her warm, her cold.
Her frailty and towering enormity.
This thing we call memory is frail at best
Wild and accusatory when we are young
Memory builds its house so differently
One never knows where you’ll find the windows or the doors
The roofs or the floors.
At 48 aunty Beaty.
Has become someone.
I can love.
2. Sister (for Loretta Thomas nee Heeger)
In Denovo the Plum trees stand at the edge of the front garden
almost equi-distant on either side between the other two fruit trees.
The white daisies in the field frolick in the breeze and you teach me how to make daisy chains
beyond the barbed-wire border and the alcoholic’s home
and next door the old age home where mommy works.
Every Friday they collect the balie from the outside toilet
The smell of wood, newspaper and poop permeates the air in that little space in our yard
Vineyards line the fence across from the sunflower in the back
I live here.
A nappy dangling from my bottom.
Sunglasses to big for my face
and arms to short to fold across my chest
You keep this photograph.
You keep many.
You love to document.
I page through albums find bits of hair, a tooth.
The family archivist I call you.
At night when I take baths.
I scream – afraid of the water.
You take me, still dressed in my vest and panties on your lap in the water
and ladle water on me slowly with your cupped hand.
God only knows what the water has to say.
But you take the fear away
We take up adventures between daisy fields, vineyards.
Snakes sunbathing scales in the sun till dusk
and bustling birds laying eggs in tree nests.
I love the open space.
The dogs and cats, Gigi, Mo and His Nibs.
Those tadpoles with their magic,
how they startle me the first time they grow legs – as if by magic.
Nature is an icky, weird, magical mistress.
You teach me this too.
Your heart pumping motherhood at 19.
The sharp smell of rain on dirt road
and how my sister grew me the magic with her stories and her games.
And how she fastened me inside with her love
And I rode the unicorn of life.
To beyond what eyes could see.
3. I come from
I come from Caledon dust
Where my mother grew her bones to fit under my father’s arm
I come from crooked fig trees in my grandmother’s backyard alive with the procreation of bees
I come from loose tongues women who speak their minds
And drink beer with men under Oak trees on a Saturday afternoon in Wynberg
Where the politics of what was proper fell short of the doorstep
Here at the hearth of a coal stove boiling water for baths in a steel tub
Made for 5 women and their children
And from there where a woman took me slimy into her midwife arms
And called me daughter with her whole heart
I come from a man who used his hands and spirit to make my life safe
Driving Cape City Council trucks for something that could not be called
Making a living
I come from biology, mythology, adoption, community
From unnatural catholic beliefs, masturbation is a sin
To rape and overriding carnal pleasures deceptively
Disguised as love
I come from pain masked by alcohol and amphetamines
Imperfections that called me a whore at 14
A pregnant teen at 15
A dead mother at 19
Two marriages, two divorces
And four children, Bjorn, Nicole, Alfred and Wayne
I come from ‘I think nothing of myself’
To nights when suicide was a pure option
And poetry was for dark thoughts
A place where forgiveness did not pause
I know what alone is
When my neighbours the Furlongs were the only people who had food to give
I come from passion and power
Marigolds, Dahlias, Frangipani
Starlings in our roof
I come from a complex identity that cannot be fashioned around colour,
Religion, gender, sexual orientation and conventional notions of family
I am the offspring of Harry die Strandloper, Krotoa, Ansela van de Caeb, Van Bengal, van Riebeeck the barbarian and many more
I come places I have not been and people I have not seen
I am the parchment of a history that is never spoken
Sitting behind museum curtains
Entrusted to tour guides whose tongues speak benign slavery
In the ledger of time nothing adds up
For what happened in the lodge, Prestwich place
Gallows hill, Greenmarket and Church square
On tortured pages of history
Is never really written in their tongues
Their voices catch in a spirit gag
And the sperm of centuries ago walk on streets of denial
In European cities that I need a passport for
And in unsaid celebrations of black mothers and fathers
Until we speak
Until we speak
Until we speak
Our unanswered questions cancer our children
Horror and anger unspoken is a ghost with a grudge
My love makes me speak
I come from this.
Interact with Kadhija Tracy Heeger
Kadhija Tracy Heeger
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