“A house named history” Poem by Maneo Mohale


A house named history

Poem by Maneo Mohale

The house that I inhabit is dimly lit
In the evening, windows glow like amber from where I stand
The short shards of conversation
and sharp barks of laughter burst behind me
on the dusty street

My hand grips the black metal gate, wanting to pull it towards me
like a beckoning
just beyond it, the ground hums with history

Just there, behind the gate, a bitter-toothed youth curses a second-hand grandmother under his breath, while impaling the ground with stones

Just there on that mound of tar, a twin sits on a plastic crate meant for black beer, crying for his father, as indifferent three-roomed houses look away

Just there in a chipped hollow garage, a headstrong girl (of seven) draws five English vowels on the wall, like indigenous San rock-art. Reciting words she learned from Dark ‘n Lovely moisturizer bottles to her students, like poetry

Just here decades before me, men in floor length coats and angle-tipped hats swarm, gather like crows croaking ka isiZulu, for my grandparents to hand over an ‘informant’

Death waits for him with the certainty of a slow nodding rhythm

Blood knows this ground

There were the familiar sounds of belt buckles and pipe plastic that told you that the boys were home
There was the smell of Castle Lager, Hansa Pilsner, Black Label, Stout, mixed in with the gurgle of sixty-year old drunkenness

There was the seven o’ clock smoke that settled in with the sound of the SABC

There was the way that the dust would coagulate like brown beads on the ground, beautifully, between the broken brown and green glass.

There were the lies that were told to us, so that childhood stayed a simple story that fit in our mouths and tasted like home

I live in a House called History.

The rooms call to us from the streets.

Red and yellow roses lie silent on the streets of the Downtown Eastside
Stanley park trees groan and press their roots into the green of stolen land

Buchanan Tower stands grey, keeping its secrets of abuse in stone
Newspapers scream outrage at homophobic, transphobic, misogyny across the sea, leaving their anchors forgotten on Kits Beach

My hand hovers above the black metal gate, wanting to pull it towards me
like a beckoning
just beyond it, the ground hums with history

and I am tired before I even begin

my shaking hand hovers above the black metal gate.
I touch the surface, and remember.