Girl by featured artist Lora Mathis

      My Fathers’ Africa

      A picture of my father circa 1968
      hands upraised, anticipating
      trigger-click, singe of skin,
      the long ache of apartheid
      slashed across his forehead
      like a California faultline.

      In our family the men go grey at twenty-five.
      They remember scooping up an uncle’s
      spilt brains for burial,
      sifting through the warm froth
      for shotgun pellets.
      Or else, the boy
      who staged a protest in the schoolyard
      and how the flies swarmed on his bleeding face.

      They learned to turn away.
      From the yeast-reek of hooch on the south wind.
      The obscene ballooning of a child’s belly.
      A bruise, split lip, acid burn.
      The broke-shouldered village girls,
      their backs concave, eyes dull as river glass.

      A whole generation forgot how to dance,
      gulping snatches of Garfunkel and Janis J.
      My aunts had portraits taken;
      starched white blouses and new leather shoes
      which lasted longer than they did.


Tanaka Mhishi

Tanaka Mhishi lives in Brighton, England, where he writes, bakes and plays bad songs on the ukulele. He recently contributed short play to London’s Vault Festival and blogs poetry at Writing is his first love (and the only one that still speaks to him).