from Chokers en Survivors

Nathan Trantraal


The rocks inna road
sit lyk laities onna sidewalk
and always ask you fo a Rand.
The wind come and goes
lyka man who dusn’t worry bout his laities
a wind that live jus fo himself.
The sky’s mouf stink of wine.
The sun werk nine to five
becos that is what he does.
He neva considered
that he could do enithin else.
The trees hang the wholeday ova their walls
watching otha peoples’ biznis.
The sand has durty feet and long nails,
butta sand walks door to door
and sit in evrywun’s howses.
The people are cigarette-ends
stuffed in metchboxes.

Wednesday, 16 February 1988

I am still small.
I stand alone inna backyard
at my granma-and-them’s house and I feel sad
becos I no today issa boring, unimportant day.
I no the day has done nothing
that make it worthy of remembering.
I feel sad becos I no there were alredy thousands of days
lyk this that I have alredy fo’gotten.
A person looks back on your life anna things that stand owt,
fo you that is your life
But that isn’t living,
That’s the highlights reel.
Your life issa stack of days when nothing happened.

I walk to the washing hanging onna line,
I put my hand gainst a wet towel
and I think I am neva gonna fo’get this day.


I wrote this poem twice
Cos my ma red the first one
then says to me: “You can’t write all that stuff,
they’ll lock me in jail.”

It’s from her that I lurnt
how to hustle.
Not that gangsta-hustle,
but that woman-alone-caring-fo-six-kids hustle,
that righteous hustle.

My ma taught me
not to be sentimental.
The first thing she pawned
was her wedding rings.

My ma greets gangsters and churchfolk the same
cos she knew the churchfolk
befô they became gangsters
and the gangsters befô they
gave their hearts to the Lord.
My ma respect no one too much or too little.

She smokes three packs of ciggies a day if she has
and if she doesn’t have, she picks up butts
and roll us smokes with the phonebook.
If you haven’t smoked the whole day
then every puff feels like a man-sized hit.

My ma believe in nothing and she believe in everything
and you’ll neva no if she’s lying.
She taught me how to lie
and howta tell a story
and howta worry:
the secret is to go to sleep.

You worry better if you’re rested.


Riefka lurnt early on
thatta way to a man’s heart
was thru her stomach.
She wassa druggie at thirteen
anna prozzie at fifteen.

Riefka wassa pretty girl.
Evryone was crazy bout her eyes
which were sumtimes blue
and sumtimes green.

People still talk offa things
she did inna boys toilet
and many up-and-coming-girls
use her career path assa blueprint.

Her cousins who were at school with her
simply referred to her as “that slut”
if they spoke bout her.
Riefka was confused bout her cousins
bout her family in general.
She was confused bout who her pa was.
Evryone new who her pa was, except her.
Her ma chucked him just after she was born
and told her that Mr Cock is her pa.

Riefka can’t remember it
cos she was still a baby.
But her ma
once argued with her pa
and she got so angry
that she threw the man with the baby.

Later, her pa totally lost his fuckin mind,
became a ayaman. And then fucked off.
But it wasn’t all bad
cos her ma always provided for them.

Riefka won’t remember this
cos she was still very little.
But one Christmas, she was maybe four,
and her brother and her sister were twelve and ten,
her ma bought them a Christmas box:
for Faheem and Sieda
a case of beer anna bottel whiskey,
and for Riefka, becos she wassa baby,
a bottel Esprit liqueur.

Wenna children were dun drinking
Riefka lay inna yard inna sand and swam
and all the grownups stood and laughed
at how cute she looks when she’s drunk.

translated from the Kaapse Afrikaans by Alice Inggs