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Language & Other Poems

Phodiso Modirwa



I populate my mind with thoughts of independence/ A small pilgrimage

to the land of impossible possibilities/ I will be big one day and go to

Gaborone, I say to myself/ My mouth syrupy with the bribery popsicle

my mother gave—a negotiation with my separation anxiety to let her go

to the city/ In my six year old mind Gaborone is a place of beautiful

things and my mother is one of them.


I am drawing on the school playground/ A map aided by hand gestures

because intercom is still a word too heavy for my small tongue / I am

explaining to my new friend the process of gaining admission to my new home/

Press the button- knock

Say your name - Give someone a chance to decide whether or not you are welcome

Wait for the gate to open- (I did not know before that I could decide not to open)


This is how love introduced itself / A youth pastor/ An uninvited kiss

supposed to be a knock/ Forgot I could say no/ Stood there watching

my life open up/ Broke my heart that Christian boy.


City girl at heart/ Love me the fast life minus the high rent / Hate the

traffic’s forceful lesson in patience/ Love the girl’s night outs but

hate the overpriced restaurants/ Still learning to navigate the intercom

of my heart/ To set boundaries without aiding and abetting/ To unlearn

the obligation of granting access to men apt at making me

uncomfortable/ Men who throw tantrums when unwanted/ Who cast

glances as heavy as shame and slide me their number/ Despite my ignoring them

the entire night.



The woman who has come to play

house with my father speaks iKalanga fluently

Because of this, the betrayal is loud in my ears

She is a girl fascinated by a lover she has

something in common with—

a language my mother does not speak


Phodiso Modirwa is a Motswana writer and poet with works published on Jalada Africa, 20.35 Africa Anthology For Contemporary Poetry, Lolwe, Rising Phoenix Review and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Speaking In Code was selected by Chris Abani and Kwame Dawes for the upcoming New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Boxset (Tisa).



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