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Gabeba Baderoon

Gabeba Baderoon’s most recent poetry collection is The History of Intimacy (Kwela Books, 2018). Her previous collections include The Dream in the Next Body (Kwela Books, 2005), A hundred silences (Kwela Books, 2006), and The Museum of Ordinary Life (DaimlerChrysler, 2005) and the monograph Regarding Muslims: From Slavery to Post-Apartheid. Her honors include the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry and a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship. Baderoon is the co-director of the African Feminist Initiative at Penn State University, where she is an associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and African studies. She lives in State College, Pennsylvania.

By This Poet

2

Old Photographs

On my desk is a photograph of you
taken by the woman who loved you then.

In some photos her shadow falls
in the foreground. In this one, 
her body is not that far from yours.

Did you hold your head that way
because she loved it?

She is not invisible, not
my enemy, 
nor even the past. 
I think
I love the things she loved.

Of all your old photographs, I wanted
this one for its becoming. I think
you were starting
to turn your head a little, 
your eyes looking slightly to the side.

Was this the beginning of leaving?

Green pincushion proteas

Green pincushion proteas grow
in my memory, swaying faintly
in today’s wind. Memory snags me
through the pink pincushions I bought this morning
from the auntie in the doek by the Kwikspar
who added a king protea to the bunch,
all spikes and pins in reds and maroons,
so regal that as a child I didn’t know
they were alive
and did not water them.
My mother’s remembering
remembers them into me.

Do you remember, she asks, and then I do,
green pincushion proteas this small?
She slowly makes her fingers turn and bloom
green flowers the size of large coins
that we found here among the rocks and grey sand
under tall trees unnameable in memory, reaching
their roots into the house’s foundations,
subtle threads stretching closer and closer.

All tangles and snaggings and swayings,
green pincushion proteas prick into my mind,
thicken themselves stitch by stitch
into a place that was not, but is again.
The grey sand of memory now fervent with colour,
green blooms clamber over the rockery
and we, who did not know their beginnings,
move them to another part of the garden,
and they withdraw, and then withdraw
from memory until now, a new species of green
blossoming and unmoved.
They died, she recalls.
They don’t like their roots to be moved.

Do you remember, she asks,
and the green coins bud into the first bush
long preceding us, and careless we wrench them
from their original rocks and they die
a little and then fully.
Why did we move them to another place,
we, who were removed to here?
Do you remember, she asks.