We were spanked for each other’s sins,
spanked in syllables and by the word of God.
Before dark meant home time.

My grandmother’s mattress
knew each of my
and the neighbour’s children’s
morning breath
by name.

A single mattress spread on the floor was enough for all of us.

Bread slices were buttered with iRama
and rolled into sausage shapes;
we had it with black rooibos, we did not ask for cheese.

We were filled.

My cousins and I would gather around one large bowl of umngqusho,
each with their own spoon.
Sugar water completed the meal.

We were home and whole

isn’t it funny?
That when they ask about black childhood,
all they are interested in is our pain,
as if the joy-parts were accidental.

I write love poems, too,
you only want to see my mouth torn open in protest,
as if my mouth were a wound
with pus and gangrene
for joy.

© Copyright Koleka Putuma, 2020