Tissue paper

When I go to the metropole I feel defensive:
We Africans are not barbaric, I assert.
Meanwhile the TV yells
that we have elected
an alleged rapist
an accused thief
an unashamed polygamist
to the presidency.
 
I tell them they don’t know what it’s like:
there are differences in custom and tradition,
loss happens in translation,
these things are also coloured by racism
the west has its pets, its tame Annans,
it’s not our fault that you don’t understand us –
you never have.
 
On the flight home, I study the cold
black tablet of the aeroplane window.
Level with the stars, we cruise over Africa
her masses in their thrall of poverty,
their unnegotiated fate.
 
When I step off the plane, I feel like a missionary.
I want to tell everybody to use a condom,
treat women fairly, get educated, get a life.
 
Travelling pulls me apart
into soft tissue paper
in layers;
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 
It’s so much easier
to pack the fragile things.

from The Everyday Wife (Modjaji Books, 2010), © Phillippa Yaa de Villiers 2010, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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1The River

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2What the dead say

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3Wanting

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4Stolen Rivers

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5Muse

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6Jozi parks

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7Problem child

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8Don’t mention the war

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10Origin

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