Tumello Motabola

Tumello Motabola, born in 1999 is a poet from Lesotho, studying Actuarial Sciences at Stellenbosch University in the Republic of South Africa. He is the youngest of two siblings, a brother and a sister, and his parents are both teachers. He was shortlisted for the eighth Jalaada Africa bodies volume and some of his work has appeared on the South African online journal Poetry Potion. His writing style, heavily influenced by Clifton Gachagua’s2013 Madman at Kilifi, Mongane Wally Serote and Czeslaw Milosz draws on memory and history of the southern Africa constantly in the background of a fast and advancing modern world. @tumellomotabola on Instagram.


Money changes hands here but the palms maintained the labor
keeping the lineament the same as the lines
once meant to hold in the grasp, forever unchanging.
The sun condenses in silly patterns to a glare of stale polythene sheets that smell like cheap imported shoes, urine and forgotten last winter orange shavings coiled somewhere in the dust. Men hurling boots at the sleeping pavement pass by uninvited motorcades
peeling those infected oranges with only the tips of their tongues.
I am distracted by old Cadac stoves pushed into the damp shadows of the cardboard stalls, stowed away, maybe even forgotten.
Will they be used again? Why are they not thrown away?
Under a red Vodacom canopy flaring at center a woman riddles her feet to a tangram, under a matching Coca-Cola canteen.
The smell of camphor indented in her neckline like alloys under her cheek
dipped in a shy calamine for the burning sun above.
The black umbrae in her eye could be used as a new sundial
for a new miniature town if only her face would change to the sun.
When city drivers ask me where to go,
I swallow my tongue and say: Ka Lepoqong.


The difference between a mountain and a ridge is in the way our bodies can sometimes press at night the loneliness of the Caprivi
stretched in front of us like a sterile thumb. When we ran out of words
choosing to communicate only in memory renaming every part of this town, palms joined dancing on the geography
as two telescopes inspecting the passing land for things buried below.
Your face could be a whole language for a tribe forgotten long ago
in the binding silence of ascribing memory to new things we can never forget – a full memory, a rave of heat, the early Sunday morning miasma –
how we can always tell its Sunday by watching the vista at 9 a.m.
I say I only love you to myself now, almost every day.
I am afraid of strangers who come to my door at night only to wipe their feet, only to take my memory. The nights I spend with this false prophet from Suriname growing olives in her belly – how she is waits for the bird to come.
We wait for my own bird too, to translate this new language of the world.
She introduces me to etymology, a study of craving a new religion
of how these people we call “born again” once had to die.


is how the strange and the kind can get entwined
another version of the truth like velvet hanging in a wardrobe
or summer, the brief stare of the longest faces.
Another witness dead on the news, a judge stabbed in the head.
The bold throb of rubber shifting under your tongue
every time you try to move it around
screaming your nightmares into a gentle quell.
National rivers flowing across her thigh and us dancing
to the platform no longer afraid, reclaiming everything
we lost coming here. A silver night blushing with the new girl in town
and when we dance saying we dance for those who can no longer dance
for themselves. On your wedding night I draw circles in your belly,
dig cola out your navel with only my tongue.
I call you with a new name ‘Mathakane.