1997 - A thesaurus; Learning the meanings of old words
Necklace, no longer just the clutched pearls at Grandmother's throat,
Now they are the mark of shame of submission to a man,
Or the mark of a feminist statement declaring independence of thought,
Or the burning of rubber and flesh to absolve the sins of one to another,
Or a warning to those watching, hoping to rise beyond their station.
Freedom, burning the 18 candles in a room of women -yet to be friends,
Dancing past curfews, drinking in the life of those whom one wants to be like,
Stupid words, dangerous flirting, knowing the risk of casually forgetting -
Three letters always thought but never said, because of the colour of her skin,
Freedom from consequence, invincible hope and faith in a God that has yet to fail, yet to fall from grace.
Fear, driven by a need for new experiences, driven in vans filled with intimate strangers,
To and from work or university or one gamble to the next,
Guns and warnings from old women who had seen too much to forget -
To keep another mother's child from falling into the wrong crowd.
Broken glass, spent needles and used people, walked past and forgotten,
Car tyres bursting, breaking through barriers and, yet, building more,
Nails and bombs punctuating the school days that pass as distrust becomes a blanket
Of black and white and brown, mixing but not coalescing.
Sadness, that children will watch their mother burn for a love that is a Shakespearian theatre,
And that letters from home will be edited and parsed by the eagerness and immortality of youth,
And the truth of the cancer that grows will be hidden in the broken telephone calls late at night and deliberate miscommunication.
Brave, a long walk down to the pool bar or a quicker walk to the tequila shots?
Visiting Rhodes at midnight, 20 years before he'll be purged from memory,
Not flinching when car alarms and gunfire punctuate each stroll home,
Smiling through the confusion as the obvious is presented in a way that maked it visible,
And in its visibility it becomes a burden of shame and it discolours our liberal self image.
Miscellaneous, visiting a psychiatrist to find out if the breaking of your mind is medical or an example of causality,
That lectures on paradigm shifting in a world that is no longer black and white can trigger a fractured family to collapse into a kaleidoscope of foreign shores and scapegoats,
That there will be no going back, because history cannot be re-lived nor can it be rewritten, it can only be translated into new words.
1997 - the year I learnt the thesaurus of a new South Africa.