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Poems by Maakomele (Mak) Manaka

How I started writing on a notepad

I got to write on a notepad because nako tse kaofela, ke ntse ke sa ngoale
mo notepadding, you know, I used to write poetry on random pieces of
paper, o kile wa bona, just here and there. And before I get to that other
part ya di “amen” and all that stuff, from the first poems I used to write.
But how I got to write on a notepad, actually, was very interesting,
because what happened? I was in my father’s car, and my mother had just
got the car from my father, coz at the time this was after my accident, and
ko skolong they were talking about “yho! Ngoana o na re tlo mo koba”
ntho tse joalo, “ha e beng a ka tla late futhi” because at that time I was in
a wheelchair, you know, so, ok hold on…alright sho, hola. And then so
now, so ba re ngoana o re tlo mo koba ntho tse joalo, ha a ka tla late futhi,
o kile wa bona, and my mother was going mad, because my father had a
car at the time, and, and, modimo, e thata taba e.

So joanong, my mother decides to get the car, and ha a gutla ka transi,
she takes me to school in my father’s car, and I felt so proud, like oh shit,
ok, ke vaya ka transi ya le thaima, yho! go monate di ya boya, ok, and at
the time my father used to drive a BMW, hahahah, 318, o a e bona ntho e
joalo. So, and an automatic too but regardless. So ha ntse re vaya re ya ko
s’ghela, oh sorry, sho, beer e go a nyewa.

Anyway. So ha ntse re vaya re ya ko s’ghela, eerrm, I look inside the
glove compartment, you know, ha ke re, I find my father’s notepad, o
wa ngoala daar, he’s got his poetry, you know, sho! one more time, sorry,
Black Label what you doing. So oa ngoala daar, entlek o ngoetse, he has
written most of his poems on a notepad and I read it and I read it, and
the first one I come across, ke daai ding e a e ngoetseng ka Africa, a poem
about Africa or something like that, and this is how I literally start writing
on a notepad, and I am like oh wow, if my father is doing the same thing,
I might as well do the same thing, because to me my father was like my
hero jo, you know, he was like the ultimate god, e ne e le motho o ha ke
mo shebile, ke bona he’s never laid a hand on me or my brother, he’s
never laid a hand on Sthu and me, whatsoever.

Maara. I was afraid of him, it’s a kind of fear that was of respect,
because everybody respected him for who he was apart from what he did,
a very strong headed man, very together person, o ka tla re mo lala wa
gage ha o gone go thikazisega, ntho tse joalo, you know, so now, I get to
school in my father’s car, great stuff, beautiful, fantastic, the morning was
like any other morning, and thankfully azange ka fitlha late ko skolong,
coz my mother had been stressing, you know KES, eish, anyway, KES
e na le matlakala sometimes but it’s understandable it’s a school that is
running on its own semi private kind of rules, you know. So, granted, if
your child comes to school late again, you guys, you in shit, and given
the fact ya gore I went to that school under extreme conditions, because
the MEC of education at the time was Mary Metcalfe she told them go
re no no o a tseba keng, ”here is a boy in a wheelchair who is going to
come and if you guys don’t allow him to come to your school we going
to put your educational board under review”, ntho tse joalo, you know,
and I am thinking, oh great stuff, and my mother has been working left
right and centre to keep me in school, and I’ve been going up and down
ka dicombi, you know, transport was not being right, and the time my
mother didn’t have a car, ok great, this is the first year, the first year as
in ’97, first year high-school, at the time I was still in a wheelchair, and I
mean you don’t have a lot of options when you’re in a wheelchair, coming
from the township going to a school in the suburb, you don’t have much
option, but my mother hustled to get me into the school, great, lovely.

Now, on this particular day, eer, now, I get to school in my father’s
car, my mother drops me off and, sho, ok, my mother drops me off e
be a tsamaya, it was like any other normal school day jo, you know, went
through the old routine, five past eight skolo sa qala and then, you know,
I mean ke skolo jo, so come five past two, or ten past two ba tlo nlata
joanong, hao! Ke latiwa ke maolady le mamogolo S’bongile. Mamogolo
S’bongile le maolady? What’s going on here? But anyway, mamgol
S’bongile is my godmother, and this is my mother’s closest friend you
know, so, ba nlata mo le ka koloi, and ra vaya, but what I hear has been
happening while I was in school, yho! It becomes even more hectic, and
after so many years this is what I have heard, and I have been told, what
happened tsatsi le le. Apparently that morning, when my mother went
to go get the car ko le thaima, let me have a cigarette, well when that
happens. Uuuhhm, my mother went there a tsamaya le Tebza, well, I’ll
give a character break down ya Tebza.

Tebza jo, is one person, o e leng sextsharo, a good looking brother, my
late uncle was a very good looking brother, man, shit, you know, and I
mean ladies loved that man, he was like the most harmless person, the
most non violent person you know, but I suppose growing up in the
township, you’re exposed to violence so much that you become violent
without realising that you are violent, hahaha, anyway, aothi e na ke
konyana, Tebza is like the guy who jokes a lot. So, my mother gets to the
house, at the time I was living with my mother, and by then they had been
separated for some time but and it was crunch time now, if I don’t get to
school early, I get kicked out, so o a kokota o a kokota o a kokota, eyi, ha
kokota, my father comes down, this is the house that, everything had sort
of broke down to a certain degree, di ntho tse ngata di le di a senyega daar,
you know, I mean that was literally the first time I ever heard my mother
scream, I have seen shit like that, that house was cursed but let me not
blame the building, hahaha, you know, it’s just a cop out thing, you know,
it’s art love supreme after all. So now, le thaima li le la bula monyako
daar, la re, “What you guys doing here, what’s up”, and my mother tells
him, “Maakomele o ba tla koloi, he needs transport to go to school man”
and my father is like, “Nah, I can’t give you the car”. And I think him
saying no sort of triggered violence in my uncle, in this sextsharo sweet
handsome good looking man, o a e bona ntho eo?

Atmosphere e vetse ya changer completely, and as soon as my father
said “No, I can’t give you my car to take my own son to school”, this
guy, this slender looking brother, who was actually not even bigger than
my father, pushed down the door, a beya le thaima mo le siting, and my
mother walked in, like an enraged bull, she charged in more than walked
in. A kena a lata di khiya, this I am told, and I can only imagine how it was
because of the tone my mother was telling me in, from what I could hear
from her telling me, I could only imagine how she got in to that house,
you know, she didn’t walk in she charged in, ke le wa bona, like an elephant
on heat, like she didn’t care, like, “A ke kgathale go tseba now, I am going
to get the keys, my son needs to go to school”. Err fuck, so my mother
gets the keys, and then, she storms out with the car, while my uncle has
this man, my father, on lockdown, like “Hei, you not doing anything, you
not going nowhere”, you know, “we taking your son to school mathafaka
what tha fuck!” set-up you know. So ba tswe ka koloi, bbbrrrrrr, ke bale
ba tswa, and my mother says she almost hit a car. She was not completely
telling me all of this, she was telling mamogolo S’bongile in the car. I am
gathering all of this from in the car, from school going back home, you
know, so my mind is racing, pacing, and I am putting all this shit together.

Apparently, eeerr, before ba nka koloi ko ntlong, my father says to her,
“ha o ka nka koloi e na, ke tlo go tshoarisa, I am taking you to the police,
man”, sho! and I think, that also e le e a qah qah fuse to the fullest in my
uncle’s head, they stormed out with the car, she almost hit something,
came to pick me up, and this I didn’t know, and I didn’t know any of this
my mother being my mother, hahha, she comes cool calm and collected,
and I didn’t see nothing of that sort, ha ke re, wow, “so le thaima le go
file koloi?” a re “ya” you know, and she is like that, even now she is like
that, she won’t tell you, go re ya no, there is something wrong at home,
blah blah blah. So sho, cigarette. Now, eerr, apparently, actually I am told,
not even apparently, I am told, that, ha ntse ke le ko skolong, my father
did actually do what he said he was going to do, and called the police and
reported the car stolen, my god, “by whom”, the police say to him and he
says, by his wife, oh my god. “Why?” he doesn’t say. You know, he doesn’t
say why the car was stolen by his wife, so ba tla ko gae ko Zone 6, with
my aunts, but I am not sure maara my father’s older sister, was the one o
a na di gatela ko pele, who was on some “ya vele, you must do this, wara
wara wara wara” bullshit.

She kept going on, a re “tshoanetse le mo tshoare, he he he he” you
know, and they were all behind my father, but that was sort of ashamed,
was my grandfather, the person I am named after, e a nko tloisa bo tloko
taba e, it’s sad. When the police came and took her from home, to the
police station, I mean there is a case against my mother for theft, for
stealing a car, you know, so ha fetla ko stashining, ba motsa, “go e tsa
getseng daar” and she says “no, ke e nkile koloi, from my husband”
“why?” “ne ke batla go tsamaisa ngoanaka ko skolong, ngoanaka o so le so
le so, o gobetse, o tsamaya ka wheelchair, blah blah blah” at least I would
think that’s what she said, you know, and the police were like, “mxha,
my sister, eish le authi yakho, i yenza kanjani, yazi le authi yakho, eish”
you know, and after I heard that, my love for my name died completely,
well from where my name comes from, I have always been my name,
but it died completely, but one thing I remember ultimately, I remember
today from that day is why I write on a notepad, remembering how it all
happened ahh fuck it’s hectic.

So that’s how I start writing on a notepad,
so every time I write, it’s as if I go back there again.

The Silence of Words

++++++i am sorry Mama
i cannot tell you
++++++what you want to hear
i can see
+++++++++++my fear in your eyes
your tongue like my heart
cannot hold the words
+++++++++++++++that steal
++++++++++++++++++++++my breath
i am trying Mama
sometimes I lose myself
++++++++++++to question marks
++++++that ask:
“whose blood will carry this line?”
+++++++++i am sorry Mama
some words cannot outrun reality
++++++they do not allow us
to exhale
+++++++++what we want to say

Take Away

take away
the pot of now
this rainbow
is empty

what will I feed
my unborn words
when this diseased cold
pages over old bones?

tonight, the spirit ink and I dance
the Mokama dance
so take away the pain
in waiting
that sleepless fight
when nameless cows
burn suns
from their father’s eyebrows

take away that speechless plight
between a woman’s thighs
when her barren gates
search for something
other than this “light”

take away everything
everything that takes me away
away from staying
staying away from everything
that passes away

but please!
don’t take me away
from my sacrament
when Malombo is on
unplugging the rainbow
from this unstable pot