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Nkateko Masinga: a poem

the language of blood/rooi taal

the moon, a sliver of itself tonight,

‘n stuk in a tongue I had to cut out

of my mouth, round and forgiving

once but now riven to reveal

a chasm of vocabularies

other than daai een. these words

stumble out of me like drunk men

in a reverie, in revelry, revering

what I have become, reverend

of my own ng kerk, a bad religion.

mama still says waslap and buite;

she taught us well, no blasphemy.

of a language languishing, repeat

only the words that injure no one.

a clean tongue is gold, repeat not

what was said. forgive them baba

they know not what they do. take

the high road, replete with marvel:

the moon is full tonight, blemished

but bleeding into a forgiving black.

Nkateko Masinga is a South African poet. She is the author of a digital chapbook titled the heart is a caged animal, published by Praxis Magazine. Her latest chapbook, psalm for chrysanthemums, has been selected by the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books to be published in the 2020 New Generation African Poets box set. She can be found at

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