Since I haven’t danced among my fellow initiates,
following a looped processions from woods at the edge
of a village, Tata’s people would think me unfinished –
a child who never sloughed off the childish estate
to cross the river boys of our tribe must cross
in order to die and come back grown.
I was raised in a strange land, by small increments:
when I bathed my mother the days she was too weak,
when auntie broke the news and I chose a yellow suit
and white shoes to dress my mother’s body,
at the grave-side when the man I almost grew to call
dad, though we both needed a hug, shook my hand.
If my alternate self, who never left, could see me
what would he make of these literary pretensions,
this need to speak with a tongue that isn’t mine?
Would he be strange to me as I to him, frowning
as he greets me in the language of my father
and my father’s father and my father’s father’s father?
From Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi. Published by Chatto and Windus. Reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Limited. © 2017.