The construction of memory


If only mortuaries could speak. The blood of Abel would find a ground to cry up from,
Those cold boats of metal and ice
Locked unaided in solitary confinement, from there
Fingers would wince and uncoil,
Hands clutching on the ends of brass boats
Softened dust would gather and form
Charactering a trunk, with swollen roots. Giving the kiss of life to the human soul

Dry bones would rise into formation
The spine would tingle and branch out. Erasing a macabre memory of stolen fruit
Feet would spike, a jamboree of knees bracing up,
Spidering out, ascertaining a stage to stand upon
Breath and memory would find a home,
Pursed lips would smack open, detailing inscribed secrecies
The voice would pitch and start to speak

If only mortuaries could open their mouths. Outsized, lion like jaws would jar open
Telling a nightmare of furry and frustration
Sheets of silence would flinch and yelp
Concealed lies would lay in the open
And obfuscated evidence would call out for truth
A scarred brain would shake, from sickness and soreness
An epileptic mouth would recall final moments
Vomiting out volumes of violence experienced

Did Hector Pieterson bend to pick up a stone?


Did this sign of attack, threaten your life?
Or did you cunningly target and shoot his back
As he ran to try and escape,
There you put to rest another black ape,
A Bantu male child, body number 2492/76
At the very tender age of twelve
If only mortuaries could open their mouths

Did Saartjie the hottentot venus sign to be bare?hottentot-venus
Outsourcing her buttocks and beloved bones?
her soul for display, a freakshow attraction
upon her death her labia a laboratory,
Her brain and genitalia jammed in a jar
for Years and years her skeleton in Paris’ Musée de
If only mortuaries could open their mouths

Did Mgcineni Mambushâ Noki cross the police line? The man from Mqanduli with the megaphone mouth. The rock drill operator, who carried gunshots in his bones
The green blanket on his shoulder, tangled to the side
With his mouth open and his tongue tied to the ground
If only mortuaries could open their mouths


34 miners shot down, Shot by the koppie,
crushed by police vehicles
Having migrated from ragged old rondavels,
Moved to the north to find gold beneath
Their excessive demands jerked the strong arm of the state
To you, these men had forgotten their place?
If only mortuaries could open their mouths

She would not have had to ask
Why had you not shown me this place before?
Knocking at homes and morgues to find his face,
A mother’s run-around would have come to a halt
Ending the torturous nightmare of hoping and waiting
Whilst in search of her childs fate,
Directed by a callous police here and there

In the courtroom the judge would not nit-pick this case
Highlighting the time of the shooting and place
He was rioting “Is it not so?’
He wore a black face and carried a panga, nie waar nie? cynically said
in a language that fractures her grief
Covering the culpability of the government
If only mortuaries could open their mouths

They would speak of planted weapons on dead bodies,
Exactitude of facts would be unravelled
Innocent bystanders shot to feed terror,
Their names and faces would be accounted for
The chilling shadow of violence in township fabric
From the crushing force of apartheid structures. This detail would be remembered

One by one, casualty by casualty
Deliberate confusion on missing bodies
These records would be uncovered
The violent narrative of the state would fall
The sons of the soil would speak from their souls
Unhaunted by commission findings and gigantic histories
That legitimize lies to ease white guilt
If only mortuaries could open their mouths
This vicious nightmare could come to an end
This could be the start towards true freedom

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