Belonging is a strange word
It lilts between man-made borders and human beings
Where the only thing separating hearts is how much native soul is between our toes.
Consciousness kidnaps your thoughts
And you remember that you’ve never belonged anywhere
Not even to your wounded body.
An existential crisis strangles your throat
A scarecrow screams inside your belly
Memory is shackled by unbelonging
The skin folds
The air leaks out of your lungs
You are not from here.
You are not from anywhere.
Home is where you are going
Not where you come from.
It is a person, sometimes.
At times its mala mogodu
But here the cows are dead
Their skin is used to thatch back our eardrums
So that we can listen more and talk less.
How can you live without a tongue
Why did you sell your teeth for pieces of crumb
Not eating doesn’t mean you dead
Eating also doesn’t mean you are alive.
The food here reminds you that
Home is a mindstate
Koeksisters might taste like steamed bread.
And if you swallow too much English
Ting ya bogobe might ferment inside your mouth.
Migration is a kind word
It means running away
But it also means amputating your legs
And hope that your body doesn’t return
To places, you once called home.
It also means dissecting parts of your body
And growing new ones
Suddenly you are a collage of unknown identities.
There is little light here
(Where we migrate to)
The sun is dimmed by people who are always walking
Like your father.
Who walked out and never returned
A polite way is to say he migrated
Another polite way is to
Say, “The wind swallowed him.”
That way, you know it had little to do with choice but everything to do with circumstance.
And that he was a leaf
Plucked from a family tree
Unknowingly, thrown into the forest
Exile sounds like a word from an ancient book
Like it doesn’t exist
Like similar words such as fudged, bramble, groan.
It sounds like you
Or when Esihle says we are exiled in our countries of birth
Or losing parts of yourself
We exist between the cracks
Or lateral to the margins of society.
We are lost, exiled.
Wilting flowers come out of our mouths when we spell home.
We are here, now.
Linda Masilela is a poet and sometimes a Medical Dr. He writes, when he feels like but most of the time he is reading Russian literature.