The Softness Between Teeth & Other Poems

Veripuami Nandee Kangumine

The Sky and All That Blues

I am 
just my mother
with my father’s face
partially hidden in the dark
my eyes skim over myself
and I almost jump back
thinking I saw you instead 
am I mothering myself
with your reflection
or am I turning into your
shadow’s stead
I can hardly tell

Today I sat down
writing by the cafe
on independence
and someone came up to me
and thought I was you
my heart came to me
and danced
the traditional dance of joy
and then left me

like the many times
you have miscarried me
all I have left are features
on an ultrasound 
all I am is the colour
of the deepest brown
memory can hold
of the warmest burgundy
blood can carry
I am just whims of hair
and a purple cyst
deep in your belly
I am a lot of want
always in need 

I am everything else
that changes me
to become more like you
the ocean, the wind
the sky and all that blues
I don’t know who you are
only what you look like
when my face turns dark
and someone else
thinks I am you

The Softness Between Teeth

My heart is an archipelago of little islands
in the river behind the house I grew up in
that only show themselves in September
when all the water is almost gone
and only our teeth can be seen. 

If you hold my hand you can feel everything
I have ever let go of.
Everything that I have ever pulled out of the earth
Grudges held against those who try to save me
and are shocked by the things they find in my lodged in my shadows. 

You recall things so well, it bothers me
My father tells me one day when I remind him 
of the bike he used to keep in the shed 
behind the house
when I was five 

It’s not the bike that bothers him really
But the woman who loved him then
Who wouldn’t let him ride it anyhow
They are both gone now
The woman and the bike

Yesterday I wanted to remind him
of the time we drove to my mother’s village
For a funeral but broke down
In the middle of nowhere
only arriving days after they had buried the body

I don’t remember whose funeral it was
Or where we slept 
Or whose kindnesses kept us alive 
I only want to ask him
How he kept going 

Despite losing so many women 
Who knew the softness between his teeth 
Who held his heart close to their chest 
And if he ever sees a bike on the highway 
And wants to breakdown and cry.

Day Old Rice 

You call me 
without the seriousness
in your voice
trying to harvest the feelings 
you once had for me
you said that you will always 
have a thing for me

what is it about women like me
that you think you can have twice
some food tastes better 
after years of not having it 
we both agree 

you will always be a welcomed guest
in my heart
you say after a moment of silence
we both know that is just something you say
when you are backed up in a corner

I have developed a bad reaction 
to want, I confess 
But I think you hated that I was touched 
by other men 

you never said it
but it was there between the samp 
and the spinach 
waiting for one of us to choke on it

I didn’t know it then 
but it is useless to want what 
one has no use for 
you finally replied over the phone

the network connection was so bad
I thought I had lost you  
I keep attracting men 
who remind me too much of my father 

I don’t know 
if it is the neglect
they smell on me 
or if it is just my karma 

but like day old rice 
they want to have me 
with everything
and anything

Of course
I would like to be your friend again
I say afterwards
not meaning it 

I have become a woman
who says things they don’t mean anymore 
but I am tired of seeing
my father’s loneliness 

In the eyes of men who want to love me
when you are the only man 
who ever reminded me of my mother 
when you left


You gave yourself a nose ring
with a needle and thread
one winter afternoon
while mom was at work
took one right out of moms pincushion arm
the one that held us together
I sat atop the washing machine
in the bathroom
and watched you puncture your own skin
at least a hundred times
before you got the configurations right
It was just something in the air
you said when you got the tongue ring
we hid it from mom for weeks
trying to let it heal before she made you
take it out
I watched you play around
with new things
With the least consideration
Like the time you almost burned
the house down
the first time you learnt to smoke
Or the way you spat curse words out
like you spit seeds
when you eat an orange
The belly ring came years later
a star on your stomach
I knew your body
I knew all the constellations
we had implanted
You never wanted me to do the same
said one of us had to remain unblemished
remain the way we were born
so mom could recognise us better
When your body came
all the stars were gone
mom knew it was you from
the way you curled your hand
like you did when you were sleeping
I wanted to tell you
the stars never mattered
I could point you out
in the great big sky
you were the reason
they didn’t fall to the earth anymore
they were all in your eyes.

Veripuami Nandee Kangumine is a poet, writer from Namibia. Her poems have appeared in the Namibian Anthology “My Heart in Your Hand and Doek Literary Magazine (2020). She was also part of the Isele Magazine Reading Series celebrating World Poetry Day by highlighting ten young African Poets to watch (2021) as well as a Doek! Narrating Namibia, Narrating Africa 2022 fellow. Her poems are forthcoming in Doek!, Isele Magazine and so forth.


*Image by Adeboro Odunlami on Unsplash

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