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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Deadly words:

How many times has you mother told you these words? When did she stop? Why did she stop? A million times, before you turned sweet 16. That time when you started to wipe away your mouth after she gave you a kiss. You felt irritated. She stopped, saddened because she knew that you were no longer hers. She knew that she offended you every time she said those words.

You were fortunate but you never knew it, those words from your mother were unconditional, conditioned only by the fact that she gave birth to you. You were privileged as, in some instances, some of us never hear those words until we hear them on the streets. On the streets we love, appreciate and value them but they are at their most dangerous, distracting and destroying young lives. Even creating new lives on this path of destruction.

These words are dangerous – believe me – because mostly they come on a blank contract and after signing your name to it with the very same dangerous words –

‘I love you too.’

You have just gave away your life. Men have an unfair advantage with this blank contract. They can excuse themselves from the resulting damaged lives. These damages become a women’s lifelong burden. It is the foundation on which poverty is sown, nursed and at times loved.

We go on signing blank contracts without realising that we are damaging our lives with these beautiful yet deadly words. It is not a legal issue and there are no legal repercussions to telling your spouse that only death can separate you. But while you can have a divorce decree, the words that you have said bond you to that person, even if you remarry and make new vows.

My girlfriend came back – my first surprise of this sweet 16. It is sure going to be a super year – married to the honourable me in a marriage of hearts. Of vows only the two of us witnessed in body, hearts and soul. My first girlfriend, the intelligent, super successful feminist-at-heart, and officially a divorcee of her first marriage – recognised by Home Affairs. I could not live my life because of the enslaving vows that I made with her. She was so ignorant of these vows that we made that she just left, after realising that – in her words – “poetry doesn’t feed babies.” She left the poet to make babies. And, yes, she did make two beautiful babies, and tried to build a home in the exclusive gated suburb of Northern Johannesburg.

After 14 years of trying to build her family, it fell apart. You can give her a lifetime to write a half page of what went wrong. She will never pin it down. It is because she gave me her heart and I gave her mine, and then she got married despite my broken heart, which bled for all the 14 years. In everything they were doing, she was doing it with my bleeding heart, just as I was doing everything with her heart. I was conscious enough to know that I could not love another woman but only pretend. Yes, I have Poetic Skeletons in my cupboard as a result of this lack of heart.

Two lives broken all because of a marriage of hearts.

But she traced and tracked me and finally she found me. I did not know what to say to her. She did not know what to say either. Her tears touched me and all the anger gave way to tears. Then she recited the shortest poem I ever wrote:

    You are mine
    For a life time
    Your spirit is mine
    For eternity

Dangerous words. Deadly because they were from my heart and true. How can she remember them 22 years after I have wrote them if they had no impact? They created a lifelong covenant and, sure, maybe she had plagiarised the words to her husband. That is a secondary covenant to further destroy lives. There are many things I have gained over the 14 years since she left. You, the poem, exist in our heads – even the spouse I am with is juxtaposed by You and she can never be loved like You but she doesn’t know it. She thinks I love her. And equally true there is a man I am juxtaposed with in her life but I know it.

This is the danger of words. I love words and I play with them but this Sweet Sixteen, I have learned that they are dangerous and destructive. So I am going to take heed to what my mouth utters because I don’t know how to break covenants.


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