Young and Curious

November 6, 2020


Phelisa Sikwata

My falling in love sounds like an ancient wooden casket being open
My breaths sound like urgent hollers to the dead
My heartbeat sounds like drunk fingers stumbling on piano keys at a funeral
My footsteps sound like a reading of my absent father’s eulogy,
my prayers, like something I’d say to a night stander the morning after.
All that I am- sounds like an offering, a giving of resentment to loved ones,
a suffocating worship experience I’ve endured in silence.
Something in me is yearning to be swallowed and purged anew.
All that I say- sounds like a plea, a prayer,
a sorrowfully sang lullaby to sleepless nights,
a need, a cry of a child inside me wanting to be renamed.
Sounds like a poem unedited.
My speeches sound like sirens
Suicidal thoughts promising
Dreams revealing family filth.
daydreams are like isolation, a shy dance, a distant love making
denial insomniac poet.
Desperation is like perfecting a face of a grin with fallen eyes,
A wanting to escape, having a soundtrack for my own funeral,
an application for a terminal disease, a sob behind a shut door far from home.
Grace- is kissing my late grandmother’s chick before stepping on stage,
the naming of my yet to be daughters,
a lover not forgetting to text ‘goodnight’,
being able to forget about sins while drenching your name in mine.
A cuss to my mother sounds like doing dishes past midnight,
refusing going to church, paraphrasing biblical verses,
saying I’m hony out loud, being depressed in her holy home.
A gunshot sounds like a white tongue pronouncing my name,
shouting ‘Vagina!’ in a crowd, being asked what type of lesbian am I..
Having to pee during an afternoon nap
its like choosing words to accept an apology, being born a girl,
being a foreigner for the first time, like voting.
Self sabotage is saying I’m okay to a concerned friend,
refusing a glass of wine, wearing a bra on a 15 hour flight,
going to consult a sangoma alone, attending a family meeting.
Being a brave coward is wanting to die,
but not wanting murder to be my last sin.

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About Phelisa Sikwata

The Pivot Collective is a non-profit based in Cape Town committed to collaborative knowledge production, knowledge translation and the decolonization of research. In 2019, we invited a group of 12 young people from Cape Town (recruited through an open call for participants) to collaborate on a project focused on challenging dominant narratives and perceptions of mental health and emotional well-being. The project, called Young & Curious, uses arts-based, participatory methodologies to support young people tell their own stories, define what matters to them, and communicate this to wider audiences. Together we have created an experimental space where young people, and the young-at-heart, work together to explore and deconstruct ideas of mental health and emotional wellbeing and to spark critical conversations between young people, academic researchers, artists, engagement practitioners, and service providers that shift hierarchies of knowledge and research cultures.