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Nkateko Masinga: a poem

A Stranger Comments on Your Lover's Accent and You Have No Mouth for a Week

you say he’s not from here and she says you can’t trust a man who thinks "answer" rhymes with "cancer"

1. your brain is a traitor. it catches only the last word of the sentence. 2. you are not ready for the onslaught of images from the oncology ward. 3. on sunday you stood for too long staring at tiny baby-shoes at the store. your sister had to pull you out. ausi i am praying for a child but for health too. is it wrong to want both? the words you couldn't say to your sister stumble out of you here wrong place wrong time but at least you have a mouth today remember when you dated the boy who loved geography? he used to say, the place where a river enters the ocean is called a mouth. i love your mouth you said, i cry a lot my eyes are a river is the rest of my face the ocean? i don’t understand he said shhhh — i think they only love your mouth when it is not moving not saying no not protesting not biting screaming cursing or saying no i swear i said no but who hears you when you have no mouth? but you have a mouth today so you say again to the stranger, he’s not from here but she is already gone

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, was selected by the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books and was published in the 2020 New Generation African Poets box set. She can be found at

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