Two Poems – Maneo Mohale

Things found in the pocket of a traveller

The spines of streetlamps
Transatlantic gold
The touch of familiar things
The heaviness of silver
Memory, to throw at the dark
A palm full of longing
A grief poem.
Ancestral rhythm
A suitcase of Fela tapes
A lover’s noon-time voice
Imagined joy.




9 Kisses

Dear T: We were thirteen, at your best friend’s birthday party. After an awkward, arms-length slow dance I was summoned to a pitch-dark garage full of forgotten bicycles and boys, hidden in the dark, stifling their thirteen-year-old giggles. By the light of mysterious floating cell phones, your voice tiptoed toward me and asked if I wanted “to score”. Before I could answer, desperately squinting my confused eyes at the dark, I felt you lunge forward. I turned. And you licked my face.

Dear H: I love you so much, but you are a terrible kisser. I remember sitting under a dark bridge at a Wits party, feeling dim, discarded and unbeautiful. We were both nostalgic and loose from too many R5 vodka shots. You told me that you loved me. I was thinking about her. Dear H: I love you so much, but you are a terrible kisser.

Dear P: Dear Pah. Dear.

Dear N: You were so much fun. I remember resting my head on your lap in the backseat of a blue car nicknamed Tiener Aksie Einde.•I looked up from the intricate patterns on your dress and found you smirking down at me, daring me to transgress, to act out on all the beer-fuelled/shiraz-scented flirting we’d been doing all night. I cheekily crooked a finger, in a “come-hither” sort of way and you bent down, and chuckled your freckled nose onto mine. We kissed all the way home. Our beloved driver had no idea.

Dear W: I remember your hands. Clutched tight, and then banging once on your steering wheel in nervous frustration as you drove me home in your blue bakkie,• after a sunny, silent day at the park. You were quiet and hurt because they couldn’t stop staring at us. We drove to the end of my street, both reluctant to end our day so sourly. I decided to kiss you, despite your shaking hands, so unsure, so unaccustomed to touching this skin. Dear W. I remember your hands.

Dear C: You are one cheeky bastard. One chilly winter night, after an evening/morning of sober dancing to old school hip-hop, my boots kept slipping on the snowy, frozen ground outside. Concerned, you offered to walk me home, and we joked about Mugabe and Zimbabwe in-between all my clumsy steps. Home. Fumbled keys, and brief goodnights outside my building. But at the last moment, you sly motherfucker, you stuck out your leg and weasled a foot in the door. Before I really knew it, you gently pressed me to the wall and stole a kiss. Dear C. You are one cheeky bastard.

Dear E, L, J, L, P, and F
Spin the bottle was fun. Especially when we got rid of the bottle.

Dear D. It was the way your voice softened, and the way your own hand rested on your bound chest at a Pussy Posse meeting that did it for me. Your feminism deepened mine, and when you kissed me, I understood that your body was beyond discourse. The shame I felt the next morning had nothing to do with you, D. Your tender hands coaxed my head, slowly, out of the ground.

Dear S. In the beginning, I tried to frame the way you kiss me as an amalgamation of the kisses that landed on my lips before you. In the beginning, I used to shake, winter-shiver when you held me. Shaking free the ghosts hiding in the tiny pockets of my brown pores – I still shake sometimes. Differently, now. Your first kiss, our first kiss, felt impossible. I forgot my freezing toes, and stepped into this love. Trembling.




Maneo Mohale is a South African. Her works have appeared in several print and online publications, including From The Root Zine, Ignite, The Garden Statuary and Jalada. She graduated from the University of British Columbia on Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver, BC).

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