Childhood and Death in Africa
I think I was nine then, Jenny was
the prettiest girl in class, hair like peeled maize,
cornflower sky eyes. She never returned from
a tonsillectomy, the teacher said it was
a rare surgical accident.
Mother said we should not go out after dark
because of the tsotsies. In the township some
tsotsies caught a man just walking home whom
they didn’t like. They bound him with ropes and
placed a burning tire over his head. After he
screamed a little while they left him to die.
My father had a strap. It hung on a nail by
the back door. When I misbehaved he took it down
and lashed my bottom with it. Afterwards I would
look at the purple welts on my skin and wish him dead.
My cousin Bobby married his childhood sweetheart.
On their honeymoon the bus fell down a mountainside
and she was killed. Later Bobby was killed by ‘friendly
fire’ when his army platoon was on a maneuver.
About then, I dreamed about a cannibal who fell
into the soup. All the other cannibals drank the soup
then fell into it themselves. We all drank the soup then
fell into the sea which tasted very salty because it was
full of tears that people didn’t have enough time to shed.
* tsotsie – thug in Sesotho slang