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when asked the feeling 


 
“happi-” 
 
i stopped halfway 
that was the feeling 
 
 
 

poems on death 
 
rain​ 1 
roots​ 2 
hide​ 3 
grave​ 4 
am i the only one seeing them?​ 5 
many​ 6 
wear​ 7 
yesterday​ 8 
decay​ 9 
white walls​ 10 
memory​ 11 
belly​ 12 
each year, once​ 13 
-ness​ 14 
return​ 15 
one death​ 16 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
© tshiamo malatji 2019 
 
 

rain 
 
may those eyes never turn into the rain 
corroding curves on cheeks 
finding the withering chest 
heaving into the air 
beneath it, may the heart remember 
not lose itself 
deep into the other 
falling down its abyss 
deep beneath its bowels 
to find the soil under those feet 
which move slowly above the surface 
revealed to themselves 
the pain resting upon the joint 
spreading through the nerve 
bleeding with the vein 
stretching past the flesh 
we allow ourselves to die  
so the soil may live 
and give birth 
to new bodies 
that remind those eyes 
to cry with the rain 
to not be mistaken for it 
to not become it 
 
 

roots 
 
we grew in violence 
by the hand 
from the wrist 
 
marked by the wire of the hanger 
the rubber of the shoe 
the binding of the book 
the whip of the tongue 
 
we were never taught to love 
not ourselves 
in homes with cracked brick walls 
windows stained 
empty frames 
silent doors 
falling on themselves 
killing any soul that disobeyed 
by living freely 
 
i learned misery here 
in defeat 
like collapsing pillars 
suffocating dust 
broken handles 
 
this is how i love 
by the fist 
from the palm 
 
 

hide 
 
shed our skin 
beneath, broken and bare 
there 
blood knows spilling pain 
 
tear that sleek flesh 
reveal there 
where we hide ourselves 
coarse layers built around souls 
 
still, but living 
that dark, enclosed shell 
where lively terrors form  
stories of grief, memories of pain  
and sorrowful affair 
lay there 
 
like trapped worms  
in decaying cocoons 
with eyes closed  
and hope stretched 
 
waiting to break into birth - 
to feel light, see earth and touch skies 
we remain beneath 
suffering in homes, laying in fields  
and weeping through nights 
 
 
 

but, just before 


this wonder of life 
can find day 
 
our tongues whisper 
the lie 
“i’m fine - i'm happy” 
we sink back into ourselves 
aborting foetuses of bliss 
 
it's happiness 
an imaginary word in dying lifeforms 
both hide and hide 
 
   
 
 

grave 
 
boots sink, shovels dig  
the ground opens 
soil spreads itself 
beneath us 
 
but the hole 
is deep within us 
 
dust falls 
to new places of despair 
somewhere below 
opened by steel 
ends of wooden spades 
searching for where we left ourselves 
 
our souls 
have already passed on 
our bodies will follow soon 
for flesh takes far longer 
to decompose 
 
for now 
we may pretend to live 
 
 
 

am i the only one seeing them? 


 
daisies don’t lie about death 
while corpses are dressed 
caskets are towed 
and soil dug 
 
blurring pollen and dust 
flower buds taste the tearwater  
pouring down from mourning air 
growing above heads 
 
dishonesty lies in life 
it promises, inspires, rouses 
ignites, impels, incites 
it moves us  
 
the sky gives a promise 
the ground must keep 
these are the dangerous dreams 
that daisies dare warn us of 
 
growing above 
decaying messengers of death 
life grows out of 
eyes gazing forward 
away from visible demise 
 
breath, catching itself 
pulse, beating itself 
 
 

life needs permission from death  


 
livelihood is born from soil 
but survives through sacrifice 
 
remember the unfulfilled desires 
the daisies  
they still grow 
 
 

many 
 
train station, lights flickering  
insects dancing on the platform  
mind roaring like oceans 
blood, bones and flesh merging into steel 
 
arms stretching, gasping for hope 
feet finding shoes to fit into 
mouth silently screaming 
ears loudly listening 
teeth, biting to tear fear apart 
throat, swallowing itself 
 
each piece of our body 
dying in turns 
 
hands losing happiness 
tongues watered by worry 
souls leaving us behind - 
in darkness 
 
the sadness is  
we may never be whole 
 
when we die 
which piece of our bodies 
must we rest in? 
 
 
 

wear 
 
death waits 
happiness drifts 
taking flesh beneath 
left bare 
ourselves revealed 
 
first, the forming scars 
a sorrowful struggle 
with what survives 
when joy departs 
 
grief arrives 
casting misery 
onto the skin 
 
still death waits 
despair greets 
lending darkness to wear 
left hardened 
the flesh burned 
 
then longing leaves  
bodies wear themselves 
forgetting their once clothes 
 
death appears 
offering its skin 
finally, we are dressed again 
 
 

yesterday 
 
on this day 
the ocean parted 
as it waved for you 
the trees whispered 
from their roots 
buildings built storeys 
upon storeys 
to tell them to you 
 
the sun rose 
to shine upon your flesh 
birds were an orchestra of praises 
beneath a smiling sky 
that cleared its gaze for you 
 
flowers grew into gardens 
too vast to navigate 
but too beautiful to stop looking at 
 
all the world 
joined all of its peace 
for you 
 
but nature doesn’t understand 
humans love differently 
and violently 
 
and we die so soon 
 
 

decay 
 
in the black night 
her voice whispered 
memories of the flesh 
dark desires 
 
a hollowed wind 
chalked the sheets 
murmured shadows 
cold silhouettes 
from the empty body 
 
death’s wind 
lightly against the skin 
soaked sensation 
searched for her  
 
sorrow screamed 
woke the silent sleep 
slipped, spiraled, slumbered 
sunk the stream 
 
sensual yearning 
lost on this bed 
next to me 
a nothingness 
where she decayed 
 
 

white walls 
 
the stomach hurts 
refuses to feed itself 
spewing out 
the soft medicine 
the cold meal 
 
it will starve 
until the hunger 
broils a fix 
 
either, it eats 
or i demise 
 
the former delays the latter 
 
and those white walls 
look like tables 
because the frames 
have left dirty coffee stains 
 
all the faces are still there 
death forgot their flesh 
when it ate their souls 
 
i could stop staring 
but i see it everywhere 
the fear of dying too 
and knowing that i will 
 
 

memory 
 
we are built broken 
our lives are spent 
trying to mend ourselves 
to be an image of parts 
nature will never make for us 
 
after death 
there are these bricks 
around bells 
with golden shapes 
and letters 
a structure of beauty 
perfect enough to finally fix us 
 
reminds me 
we don’t own our lives 
after we lose them 
and maybe 
we will be remembered 
better than we lived 
 
 

belly 
 
a rugged expanse 
middling an ancient site  
reaches and collapses 
traversing ground and sky 
 
the mountain roars 
raising from earth 
bellowing through cracks of air 
filled by an eager motive 
 
powered by an aging nature 
that sleeps upon the dirtbed 
 
upon summit reaching summit 
mountain's peak grazing sky 
it begins to fall in tumult 
returning to the soil 
 
once a mountain  
now, a shallow plateau 
sunken deep into ground 
finding tranquil rest 
 
but, broken once again 
as the mountain returns 
growing larger still 
until meeting the sky once more 
then returning to rest again 
 
 

 
over and over  
the rugged region travels 
appearing like a balloon 
gaining air just to lose it 
or an ocean´s wave  
raising itself to fall 
 
and through it all 
that old ancient form 
sleeps away 
 
 
 
 

each year, once 


 
each year, once 
we remember our birth 
the peaceful escape 
from the null 
to the open wind 
that climbing of the air 
as bones stretched 
under our skin 
and created moments 
fluttered our days 
into talk, walk, laugh 
all the human happenings 
around and in 
all over 
until each lifetime, once 
we remember to die 
 
 
 
   
 
 

 
-ness 
 
spending time 
finding ways 
to say we’re dying 
leaving behind 
actually living 
 
knowingly 
doing nothing 
maybe lying down in sheets 
trying to convince 
my lungs 
they can forget 
how to breathe 
 
 
 
 

return 
 
in the air 
you will not hear  
our whispered screams 
any longer 
 
our voices will cease to carry 
misery and grief 
or despair 
 
no noise, no outcry 
no sound 
 
but still, 
know that 
we have not given in 
we are silent  
because we are  
quietly building 
 
 
 
 

one death 
 
express the body without pain 
search for blissful crevices 
somewhere, blotches of peace 
lay beneath the stained skin 
growing underneath 
to comfort the boiling blood 
 
remember that smile 
etched in the wrinkled lips 
given off once easily 
by the jubilant face 
when its eyes first discovered 
the wonder of the world 
 
happiness is easily lost 
by the heart  
which sinks into the body 
and finds its stinging sores 
replaced by human frailty 
and our miserable struggles 
 
become again, 
more than a decaying shell 
upon the coarse ground 
be a sun ray 
stretching upon the sky 
among the flighted birds 
 
 
 

release yourself 
aboard the lighted path 
journey to the flickering future 
imagined by the young heart 
when its lungs were small bags 
carrying all hope 
 
we are more 
than this grief 
we are the abundant water 
falling to the soft bed 
healing from our wounds 
and learning joy again  
the flesh can be complete 
as it grows from its agony 
and we desire to live 
try to not forget 
that there is only one death 
in the very end. 

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