Mamma Says

My mamma’s always talking about her friend Mark,

the man she calls her soul mate.

She said they were two of a kind, the type of people just looking for someone

to talk to.

She said his hair was brown

and his eyes were blue

and if you looked just right you could see the person he was inside.

(a dreamer and a thinker)

Mamma’s eyes get misty when she smells Marlboro cigarettes

“they smell like Mark” she says “smoke and CK One”

Sometimes when the TV doesn’t work or the lights go out Mamma tells me

stories about Mark and the things they used to do.

Just when she’s about to start her nose wrinkles and her eyes twinkle

and you know she means what she says because the tears always gather on her

cheeks and she never bothers to brush them away.

(like when she watches TV)

“There are some people you’ll always love” she tells me “and there are others

you know you’re supposed to—it’s a shame the people you always love aren’t

the people you’re supposed to.

It was raining last Sunday when I found mamma crying

she didn’t brush the tears away

I knew,

I knew it was about Mark

Mamma said that Mark had to go

I didn’t ask when he was coming back

I knew,

I knew he was dead

(Mamma’s world came crashing down)

So I waited for Mamma to tell me stories

like she always did before

And just a day ago the breeze brought the smell of Marlboro cigarettes into

our yard

And finally Mamma’s eyes twinkled and her nose wrinkled

and tears came to her eyes.

Mamma says she’ll always love Mark

(I know she’s supposed to)


You own me

my world

my night and day

every crevice of the mind

you control my destiny

my past and my present

you are my every breath

my life and death

you own me

far beyond love or desire

you own my soul

do with it as you will.


Every single one of us

Has an island of our own.

Trapped and racked by storms,

Each one stands alone.


We sometimes hear soft whispers

Guided to us on the breeze,

Across the empty spaces,

And across the deep blue seas.


And so we tell ourselves

That we are not alone,

That there are others out there

On islands of their own.


So our eyes scan the horizon

For any sign of life at all,

But the sea remains a barrier,

A never-bending wall.


We may brush with others,

As long or briefly as may be.

But all of us, in truth, we are

Divided by a raging sea.


There is no boat, no raft, no ship,

Strong enough to pass by here.

The winds are too strong and too rough,

And so we remain trapped by fear.


We have not the courage

To leave all that we know.

There are no sails to draw us on,

And it’s much too far to row.


And so every single one of us

Remains on a island of our own.

Trapped by fear of what is different,

And ultimately alone.


The flames do their elaborate dances to silent music only they can hear. The sparks fly into the midsummer sky for their short minute of glory, then plummet back to the earth and disappear. The wood performs an art show with its orange burning embers.

And meanwhile we humans take all this for granted and call it just a bonfire.

The Razor

Sitting in the corner of this thing called life

she slowly lets her tears sink through the

dirty and rusted tiles like a knife.

The tiles that once felt comforting against

her innocent and youthful skin, now eat

away at her flesh like the acid she once

used to make the pain subside.

After this, she knows there will be nothing left to hide.


A grotesque dagger has flown right into the

middle of her already shattered heart.

There lies on the bathroom sink, only a few

inches from her, a welcoming salvation.

“There could be nothing worse,” she whispers,

“than this damnation.”


An hour has passed, yet the tears continue

to seep through her snow-white skin.

The reflection before her is disgusting and

it motivates more tears to cascade.

This is her last resort, for she has already

wasted her time and prayed.


She finally picks up the gleaming razor that

will end her internal suffering.

Slowly, she presses it against the blue vein

that is filled with anger, rage, and hate.

Inside, an ounce of hope wonders if it is too late.


A moment flies by and she hesitates.

The razor seems possessed as it glides

along, releasing all her anguish.

Those bottled-up emotions are now all

over the bathroom floor, waiting for the

people who never cared to come clean it

and feel the pain she felt for so long.

She begins to question whether this was wrong.


Her dimming eyes glance toward the pain

that has left her mind and invaded her body.

Through her heart there rings regret.

Through her mind the words “no.not.yet”

play over like the voice that was never heard.

She drops to her knees and closes her eyes.

Her soul is saying, “everyone dies.”

Why Can’t We Reach Out

About a hundred meters away from the busy intersection the robot turns orange.

Then red.

“It’s time to stop,” it says. “Sit back, relax and take a look around you.”

Her eyes, yes, as always, looking down at the road.

And on her soggy, grimy, corrugated-cardboard ‘licence plate’ are four similar downcast faces.


Sabotaged by the climbing ivy wrinkles of unnecessary worry and… confusion.

“Just look at her! She could pack bags at ‘Clicks’ if she were not so lazy! She makes more money here! The fool! The… the…

The robot turns green and the car rolls away…

It’s Sunday; we sing a hymn and a tatty old man stumbles in and sits down.

He is sitting alone, by the last stanza…

On my way to school a taxi flies past, full of noisy, tightly packed, screaming ‘animals’ off to their enclosures.

They are unaware of themselves.

Just minutes after…

another one!

But, this time full of children. “Gateway Village Bus” flickers in the sunlight.

Little faces—badly deformed—are pressed up against the windows.

As the bus goes on, they smile at me so warmly, oblivious to the hurtful, harsh criticism filtering through my ‘sophisticated’ mind.

Their faces disappear down the road.

Still smiling…

Sometimes we pass “the flats” on our way to the city.

Two young girls play with knives. They hack away at an empty cardboard box lying in the mud while their parents lie drunk on the patio…

My mother drops me off at the school gate. I wave good-bye and walk into yet another sad story.

Some stand in groups and talk about their exciting weekends. How they went to the ‘Vaal’ with their speed boats and had a really good time.

How they worked all night on Friday, but got a good wage.

They laugh together.

Their friendship is special and warm.

As I walk over to my own group of friends (happy to see me), I see others walking side-by-side sharing with one another… and I see those standing alone, looking at their watches, reading through their school diaries. Looking busy.

I know that they are just shielding themselves from the reality that no one is willing to be their friend.

“And me?”

I turn my head and walk on. Much faster then before.

“Got to get to my friends now!”

The bell rings. We go to class, only to face more mysteriously withdrawn characters. Only, they sit at bigger desks. They are less approachable.

Yet, they have lives, too.

Some of them.

After school they climb into their cars and drive off.

But I’ll see them again tomorrow… perfectly veneered.

“And me?”

Well, I only have to see them for a few more months. What’s more, I have my own veneer to polish.

And yet, when I go home (to my comfort zone), put on my music and stare out over the hilltops and see the ‘sophisticated’ human anthill from my mansion in ‘Florida Hills’… it hurts…

Because I wonder how much I actually care.

“Not much,” I say and pick up a magazine on the glass-topped coffee table.

“So?” I think.

“Who cares anyway?”

The Wind

I felt the wind on my lips, and I remembered you.

The cool softness, the burning from inside.

The mood so right, the passion so intense.

Then the breeze settled, and I was left

with the same emptiness that you, too, left.

But this time, the tears did fall, and my heart did break.

One last memory,

one last dance,

one last kiss,

Now it is over.

Gripping Fear

Gripping fear is haunting me,

Haunting me night and day,

Holding me back from flying free.


With the exams I cannot be happy,

Got to work. There is no other way.

Gripping fear is haunting me.


No lake of peace as far as I can see,

But the troubled sea rages away,

Holding me back from flying free.


Although I can cross the furious sea,

While hope sends out a ray.

Gripping fear is haunting me,

Holding me back from flying free.


Education has always been important in my family. Prior to the earliest time I can remember, I am told, my mother and father read to me nightly. My family has a deep background in books, my father being a collector and my mother working at a library. My father loves books, in every way I can think of. He loves to read them, as do the rest of my family, but he has a collector’s interest in books that we lack.

He once wondered to a local library to check if they had a book sale. They did indeed have a book sale, and he bought quite a many books from their shelves. Soon he became a volunteer, and then the organizer, and soon had his own key to the library.

As the relationship between my father and me goes, I started going with him to the book sale. I loved reading and I helped him a little also. We discovered that the special semiannual book sale was coming up. I came with my dad that morning and we began carrying boxes of books out to the tables. We observed a tag sale across from us that apparently went hand-in-hand with our sale.

I was given the job of collecting money, and the day was going well, for we had already made nearly four hundred dollars for the library. At one point a small boy began his ascent up the small hill from the tag sale. He was only seven or eight by my estimate, and he went directly to the table marked “children.” After a minute or two he had found four or five books that he liked, put them in a neat pile and started his way back down the hill to the tag sale.

Nearly a minute later he came back with a rather sad look on his face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked him as he took the pile and placed the books back on the table. He shrugged and I pushed.

“You don’t want those books?” I asked. I could tell he was shy. We already had something in common.

“No, I can’t get them.”

“Oh? Why not?” I asked. I could sense that he wanted them.

“Because my mother won’t give me the money for the ‘stupid books,’” he answered.

“I’ll tell you what,” I began, “If you promise to enjoy the books, you can have them for free.” A small smile arose.

“Thank you, I sure will enjoy them.” He said and picked his books out of the pile. He smiled once more and walked happily down the hill. I felt rather good about what I had done at that sale and was mildly surprised to see the same small boy at the library nearly two weeks later. He read the books I had given him and he had come back for more. He knew there was a library, but told me that all the books were so big he couldn’t understand them.

“Did you try the children’s section?” I asked. He looked at me in confusion.

“What? I came from up the stairs,” he pointed, “I didn’t see any children’s.”

“Of course you didn’t. It’s down here.” I pointed him in the way of the children’s room. He seemed astonished at the number of books. I lead him through and explained.

“There are some books that are stories, called fiction, and some called nonfiction. Nonfiction is real. You can use those for help on school reports and stuff like that.” I showed him to the computer card catalog, which at that point in time was not a high tech machine to say the least.

“You can use this, by typing in what the title or the writer of the book is, to find something you want to read.” I showed him by demonstrating.

He looked pleased, like he was going to enjoy it. It was getting on to six o’clock, and I wondered why he was out so late.

“Do you have to go home to dinner?” I asked.

“No, we don’t usually have dinner as a family. My Mom works really late and…” he paused, “My Dad doesn’t live with me. My older brother usually fixes us something.”

“Cool. What’s his name?” I asked.

“Jamal, I like him.”

“Well, the library closes in a few minutes, but if you saw anything you wanted at the sale you can go get it.”

“But I don’t have any money.” He put his head down.

“That’s OK, just our little secret.” I smiled, and he returned it. Ten minutes later when he left he had 8 more books. I told him next time he came I would get him a library card.

That I did. I also found out his name: Freddie. He took out some books, and I warned him that he had to bring him back on time. He promised to. The next and last time I saw Freddie was when he came to return those books, nearly a week later. He was a bit reserved, but grabbed twelve books he liked from the sale.

“I’ll see you next time.” I told him but he didn’t turn back. To this day I don’t know why, but I suspect he knew he wouldn’t see me again.

I doubt that I’ll ever see Freddie again, but he made me appreciate my own position. I suppose that I helped him out by teaching him a couple of things and giving him some books he liked. Maybe I even made a difference, and while I do feel good about it, it makes me feel a bit sour. I wonder why young Freddie had to be given books by somebody he didn’t even know when my parents had given me books at the hospital an hour after my birth. Why did I get two parents who loved and cared for me and each other so greatly, but Freddie have a mother that worked all day long, and a father he didn’t know?

To this day I hope that Freddie learned at least one thing from me. A better word would be inherited. I hope that maybe he inherited that love of reading that is so prominent in my family, yet apparently so foreign in his.

The Breakup

Oh, hi, honey… No, no, I’m fine, I was just expecting to get your machine. Aren’t you usually at, like, hockey practice around now? Oh, right, you quit hockey to help with your dad’s business. I forgot. Heh.

No, I don’t remember what you and Todd were talking about at lunch. Yeah, I’m sorry I wasn’t paying much attention; my mind was thinking about something else. What? Oh, I don’t know, I was probably thinking about a conversation I had with Natasha today.

Sweetheart, I… What? Yeah, I totally hate Mr. Chatham, too. It is unfair that he only gave your essay eight-five percent, but come on, I worked my ass off on my essay, and I only got a seventy on it. And your topic wasn’t all that interesting, to be honest. I mean, “Romeo and Juliet: A Tragedy of Unawareness”? More like a tragedy of Leo; how many movies does that marvelous creature have to die in? Anyway, I think that my essay was much more thought out: “Homeless People Are People, Too.” I put a lot of work into it; I even made references to an article I read in People.

Oh, I can hardly wait to go to New York this summer. The Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty, the Sears tower… What? Oh, that’s sweet… Oh, yes, of course I’ll miss you, too. I’m sorry, my mind must have drifted for a second. Yes, school is keeping me really busy.

Can we talk for a second? OK, I know we’re already talking, but I mean seriously. Not just small talk. I mean it. Please?

OK, thanks. Um, well… It’s that…


I said, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

Because we’re just different people. I know it sounds lame, but— Don’t be upset, we are different. And I’ve tried to deal with it; I really have. But you seem to think that you can just live your life without any responsibility, disrupt my life, my schoolwork, and my relationships with other people and— No, I don’t mean other guys, I meant my friends and family, you idiot… I didn’t mean that. I didn’t, you’re just not letting me finish. Can I finish?

Thank you. It’s just that you don’t seem to think you need to put any work into this relationship. You think that I’ll do everything and we’ll be fine. It doesn’t work that way; you have to put work into it, too. No, you’re not putting work into it. Calling me doesn’t count. OK, take our three-week anniversary, for example. I got you a card from Hallmark and those cute boxers. What did you get me? You gave me a handmade card made out of construction paper, and you pasted a black and white photo of me on the front that you made during second period after I reminded you of the event in first… Oh, that was a drawing you did yourself? Well, it looked like a photo, and it still didn’t cost you any money. Yes, a three-week anniversary does count as a special event. Of course other couples celebrate it. Natasha and Bradley celebrate an anniversary every week. They do, too. I mean, to be a real couple, you have to be committed.

Yes, committed like Natasha and Bradley. What do you mean, that’s only half a couple? Natasha does too count as a person. She is not brain dead. She’s not— See? This is what I’m talking about. You don’t respect me, and you obviously don’t respect my friends. I respect your friends. Yes, I do. What are you talking about? Of course I respect Todd. Yes, I do. Oh, please, I did not break his nose. It was only bruised. And he stepped on my foot when I was wearing my brand new clogs. That’s totally mean; he deserved me punching him. Yes, he did. Yes, he did. Yes—

OK, let’s just drop it, OK? We’re through. Finished. Well, good, I’m glad you’re glad. We make a terrible couple anyway. Good, I’m glad you agree… Oh, that was low. I can’t believe you just insulted my hair. It does not look like Chelsea Clinton’s hair. My hair is beautiful and unique, thankyouverymuch.

Natasha was right; if I want to get anywhere in life, I can’t surround myself with lowlifes like you. You are a lowlife. How? Well… OK, how many pairs of Nikes do you own? Four? I mean, only four? That’s what I thought. And I bet you don’t even like Destiny’s Child. See? I knew it. I need to find someone who appreciates me and understands my popularity.

Oh, you can so bite me. I’m not going to regret this at all. In fact, I bet that by next week I’ll have another boyfriend. I think that Peter Goldman is going to ask me out. He is not gay. OK, if he was gay, then why was he totally flirting with me today in Fashion class?

You know what? I don’t want to talk to you anymore. No, I don’t. I think you’re being very immature for this situation. Yes, as a matter of fact I do. You’re being a total moron. In fact, I never want to speak to you for the rest of my life. Fine! Yeah, fine!