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African Writing Archives

Current A.W.



Grace Kim



Grace Kim

Kim moved from South Korea to South Africa at the age of two. Now 21, she has just finished her Honours in English at the University of Stellenbosch. She will be continuing with her Masters, on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission at Stellenbosch, in 2009.



if only it was that easy

Apparently Bono at a concert
wanted to make a point
so the one man standing on a stage
before the multitudes
started clapping

and as he clapped
he said that every time they heard the noise
of his two hands coming together
in Africa
a child had died

death had never before been
so coldly

and everyone in the crowd stilled to listen to
everyone else
listening to
the lonely echo
of his hands

feeling suddenly very alone

but every touch of his hands
weaved together the lives of the
the rock star standing
the person standing
and the child lying

until someone, feeling suffocatingly entangled
in this knot of intimacy
If a child dies
every time you clap

Then just stop clapping




the Lithuanian guy

you always forgot you’d already told me
the story about that Lithuanian guy
who could only speak Lithuanian
or whatever language it was
and finding himself in England
was a bit lost

so every now and then you’d say
you had an interesting story
to share and i’d nod (sometimes smiling
not really because i wanted to hear it again
but because i loved the way you loved telling it)
your voice darkened with drama
your face charged with concern
for he was cycling in a race
and in a big, broken-spoke-kinda-crash
he fell off his bike
and hit his head

and here it came, the reason
why you loved it so:
for in that crash
with England
he found himself at home,
waking up
a changed man speaking
only English
no more Lithuanian
no more Lithuanian guy

(and sometimes i would smile then
not really because i loved the way you loved telling it
but because i knew how he must have felt
becoming someone transformed after
falling so unexpectedly
in love)





overwhelmed by the onslaught
of the night
the sun retreats
with its bluebruised
and redstained

and the minions of the night
are left to
twinkle triumphantly

while unbeknownst to them
daybreak hides just below
the curve of the battlefield
and rising again
with the yellowheartspunk
of a million daisies

night is vanquished




daylight strides

through sleeping neighbourhoods,
the copperyellow edges of her
gown fluttering out behind her,

and the startled night flies off
to sounds of garages
opening, cars starting, and
dogs barking
in houses
answering her call




before parting

the days before parting
(lose their hazy edges
and smokey beginnings
that smoothed over the harshness
of time passing

a nd) grow cooler
with the clarity
of frozen moments
stolen from
a future
without each other




the weeping willow


the weeping willow

hangs its tresses
in despair
shedding heartsick foliage


mistaking the tiny
verdant teardrops to be
streams trace their way
to lap consolingly at
the willow’s





Inside me, moon-baby grew from
dark moon, crescent, half
- baby bump rounding into baby bulge -
till full moon rays shone through my pores
skin radiant from moon-baby’s glow

but in darkness, flatness
gore and blood and
screams and grunts
and cramps and pain unstitching body’s pieces
moon-baby disappeared

to reappear as baby doze in crescent sling
i love her moon-baby ways




puppet child

puppet child lies motionless on the white white sheet
kept in a magic box of light and air
and the sounds of mommy’s hollowed-out tears and daddy’s steps
shadowing his
walk around the room are locked out
by the see-through glass that’s
keeping you alive

your smooth face carved from the smoothest baby
marble, the half-moon shells of your baby hands
appear just barely from underneath
the smallest blanket they could find -
daddy drew a pink star in a corner
and under the pipes and tubes
it peeks winking at us
as your little body slowly starts to shift to the pull
of the plastic pipes, tubes, puppet strings
holding you together,

and as you come alive slowly,
with a little twitch of your hand, and a little
heavier sigh,
puppet mom and puppet dad
are bidden to your side




mea culpa, tua culpa


in my anger
My words spill out
turning on the one who has nurtured them
into life

In a vicious attack
I send them flying into your head
buzzing out any memories of love

And though I later sorrowfully pull
their stings out of you
a little bit of poison is
left inside

the next day
y our words
prowl around me
hunting for a spot of weakness

a merciless howl leads
their savage attack
and i am left red-tattered and red-torn

and though you later penitently stitch
together my wounds
some rabid froth
festers within


in our madness
we use words whispered into cupped hands around ears
to savagely tear down the castle we’ve built together
into the remnants of a corrugated iron sheet,
a rotting door, and collapsed brick walls

and those midnight words that giggled
back and forth between you and me
under the folds of the blankets
grow jagged claws and rake
our hearts into blood-raw shreds




walking back from history class

past a terra nullius
of sand and stones

in which groups of dark specks
           s o a r i n g
s                                    n    g
       w                       i
                 o o p

                                            f i
      pp               pi      ng               ti n
ho       ing            cki              gh            g

somewhere in their midst
you pointed out
some European starlings

a sneer curling your voice
"they don't belong here"

how could you tell?

to me
the flock appeared
equally blackened by the African sun

*terra nullius – a Latin expression meaning “nobody’s land” (lit. empty land) used during the era of European colonialism to give legal force to the claiming and settlement of lands occupied by “backward” people, where no system of laws or ownership of property was held to exist. (source: Wikipedia)






on the denseness of Sylvia Plath’s poetry





rusty beaks emit
metallic squawks



the crab

disjointedly dances
to its clunky castanet claws




my stomach rides
the elevator of nausea
to the mouth




watered by rain plops
umbrellas explode into
an ambush of mushrooms




waves juggle
frothy foam and
fragments of sun-blue-glass



falling off the bike

skidmarks on
young knees and palms
mark dreams’ collision
with reality




your worn-out words
and gaze and touch
are patched up with
scraps of a love
spent on her



two pale shoulders
start blushing
from the attention
of the sun’s desire

fiery gaze
my arms are still aglow



just another footnote

“all that old stuff doesn’t affect me”
he said, before walking out of history
class to buy sweets from the old man*
in the store two corners away from school


* born in 1954, he killed his first man at age 17, before rising to the ranks of commander at 20. It is at this point that he disappeared into the backrooms of history, and nothing more was known. Until he reappeared at the age of 53, just another old man sitting in his nephew’s store.


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