I Tried Calling it Depression.



maybe you don’t call it depression

maybe you don’t know its symptoms—

maybe you blame the devil.

it must be the devil,

or the boy that left.


maybe you blame your father.

maybe you prayed he never left

maybe every boy you meet,

becomes your home,

and hell, once they leave.


maybe, you’re unsure why light terrifies you,

or why mornings are tormenting

more than nights, but both equally scary.


maybe you toss and turn at night,

sometimes awake, or asleep,

hoping that air, inside your bosom, goes away

and fighting voices inside your head.


“if you die, they won’t care.”

“you’re not smart enough.”

“you’re phony.”

“you’re the reason he left.”


maybe you want to silence the noise

maybe you plead the blood of Jesus

maybe you feel defeated

the same way the ground feels

when you lay on it at night

embracing your fears like an older lover

hoping that it’s him.


maybe it’s started to show in your stutter

when you talk about yourself,

when you pray, and can’t find the right words

when you hold him and it feels cold.

when he’s inside you, and it feels like hell.

when you hide, walk or run

and still feel motionless

just as the moon, against a damp sky

maybe in your smile,

half-crescented shying away from the night


or the way you walk, in absent mindedness.


“i am here. i promise. i am here.”


you convince everyone

—they clap and ululate in awe

of the things, you do

of the wholeness, they see

but, even their adoration feels invasive.

at times, you feel like this art,

this theatre of life and deceit, you have

mastered. all you do is perform.


perform i love yous to lovers

dance around the truth and

convince yourself otherwise.

perform holiness for the church,

profess the greatness of God

sing songs of hope

yet it feels like death

inside you.


maybe you don’t call it depression

at noon when laughing with mates,

when the air is filled with tenderness

hoping your soul could catch some of it.

maybe it’s a bad day.

but, how many of these bad days

have you had to last

a lifetime?

how many crusades,

water baptisms,

have you had, to pray it away?

didn’t you try to scoop a bottle

last night, when you called home-

to numb and feel and end everything?


maybe you don’t call it depression

at night, when the moon embraces

the skies, much clearer than day

when you’re inside your lovers.

“i love you”; “i’ll be gentle”; “stay with me”

you tell one after the other. every night.

how many forevers have you promised

each one to them, to make your immortal?

how many times, have you pleaded

with each to love you?


maybe you don’t call it depression,

when you run away from home

you want peace and silence.

you convince yourself: “they know,

where I am.” do they really know?

do they know? the grave inside you?

how many times, has your mother visited that tomb?

the one between your sight? and called it a bad day,

a rough patch, casual mood swings.

“he’s just like that.” they casually say.


but you’re dead inside.


it must be the devil.

it must be witchcraft.

ke dilo tsa batho.


how many sacrifices will be brought

to sangomas to cleanse it away?

didn’t they slaughter a chicken, a goat and

burnt incense to take it away?



how many preachers

will lay hands on you,

until your head is left patched?


how many thrusts and moans,

and forevers will you seek in his arms

until you call it depression?


how many nights

will you drink it away

swearing never again,

just like your father?


in your mother tongue,

this thing is foreign.

ke dilo tsa makgowa.

that’s white people shit, right?


some days will be better.

same old depression.


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