Nosipho Gumede – Knowing how to be six

June 30, 2014 | By | 6 Replies More

Dear six year old me
I know you’re angry
BUT there are reasons why your dreams are stacked, used to balance my old bookshelf
And I do have an explanation for
Sitting through so many good songs without getting up to dance
The distance between you and me
Is as long as 16 birthdays
You existed
When bravery was a different colour for me

I remember that you would walk into a room
Counting all the couples around you
And linger when you saw an occupied ring finger
Believing that once you were tall enough you’d fall in love too
And I’ve disappointed you
You see, the difference between being six and twenty two
Is all the KNOWING

I don’t hate boys
I don’t
There was a day when I stood on the last half of Saturday
Put one hand on my shoulder
Inspecting my alter
And thought: I can’t remember the last time somebody prayed here

So I thinned myself into a costume
That boy could put on
I didn’t think I needed to tell him that the world had me feeling reduced
When someone spends time lying on top of you
Don’t they feel when you’re shrinking?
I didn’t ask him to show me how to stretch
Instead, I thought he’d understand my needs if I curled myself around his length
My shadows followed ME into bed
All HE faced were soft pillows and good rest
So His snoring came way too quickly
BUT I would lie awake counting thieves and soldiers returning from wars just to fall asleep

So, No
I don’t hate boys
I’ve walked away from a few
What else do you do
When KNOWING just touching and taste
Does not bring healing and rain

Six year old me
You were bone
But I am flesh
All you carried were structure and bending
But I have to balance feminine softness and their idea of pretty
Do you KNOW that there are some boys who want girls with skin that has the right amount of darkness
The professed yellow-bone preferring persons
Do you know that you can be a gravity questioning, night ending, God validating piece of art
But still have to sit alone rinsing your skin
Believing that the shade of your dust needs forgiving
And that is before you’ve had the chance
To stand in a crowd and point out the man that you plan on KNOWING

Six year old me
You didn’t KNOW that you would be twenty two and meet a girl
She would smile at you and you will smile back
You would stare, ask her why she is so pretty
And what you see as an earned compliment
The world will call questionable sexuality
Telling you about your sagging jeans
How your feminine side is too weak
But you would go on still hating t-shirts with frills and flowers
And loving the heights your body reaches
When tall handsome men are your lovers

You didn’t KNOW that three people can all date each other and be in a situation called a triad
That some women live in the real meaning of switching
Through a kind called polygamy
That there are people who are a different kind of special
Who are uninterested in sexual activity, something called asexuality
All this complexity, who you choose to love and how you choose to love them
How it gives you a name
One that the world wants to KNOW you by

Dear six year old me
I know that your anger isn’t really about unfulfilled dreams
Or about loving a lad or a lass
Or about sharing a man
Too close to be pacified by pretence
You can see the cracks in the beginning
The shaky KNOW in the KNOWING
So when they play a good song and I don’t dance
You don’t want to KNOW why I’ve failed at loving other people
You’re asking why KNOWING has made me fail at loving myself
With all the trouble that comes with being twenty two
All I am willing to say is
When we have survived our twenties
I’ll write a poem with the colour of answers for you


Category: Knowing

Comments (6)

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  1. Marina Sofia says:

    Ah, life and love is complicated, isn’t it – I love this dialogue with your six-year-old self… and the hint at the end that all the knowing will be revisited once the twenties are safely over… Delightful poem!

  2. Nosipho Gumede says:

    Thank you so much! 🙂

  3. Anjali says:

    So many knowing aspects of love and loving that hit you right in the heart – beautifully captured.I especially loved –
    ‘All this complexity, who you choose to love and how you choose to love them
    How it gives you a name
    One that the world wants to KNOW you by’
    The world wants to label, pigeon-hole and not let you be yourself…
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Nosipho Gumede says:

    Thank YOU for reading Anjali!!! 🙂 . Each comment makes me go back and read the poem, because it re-introduces it to me….THANK U For THIS!

  5. This poem is a tour de force in its unrelenting attempts to explain oneself to oneself. Its imagery sustains this reader through any questions that arise: “My shadows followed ME into bed/ All HE faced were soft pillows and good rest/ So His snoring came way too quickly/ BUT I would lie awake counting thieves and soldiers returning from wars just to fall asleep”. Lovely. Thank you.

  6. BethAnne Kapansky says:

    Wow- what a beautiful and powerful piece. I loved the contrast between your child and adult self, the innocent ideal and the hard earned wisdom that comes from experience. Wonderful!

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