“Forget How to Die”, fighting against surrender

We have come to this place to forget how to die.

My kind lose sight of life even before they go blind,
so we have come to take back their eyes.
Suck the cocoa butter from their skin
so they can grow wrinkled,
teach my people how to grow old.

Dear god,
let my people go.
Put the ocean back together again,
we will walk on water instead.
Give that boy back his breath,
his mother has been crying for three days,
Jesus is not the only one
that deserves resurrections.
We have been in line for a miracle

Dear death,
are you still cashing out saviours
or does your second coming look like red sea wrists,
like tipping chairs,
like we have telescopes for chests.
Look through the exit wound
and you will see all that you owe us.

It must be hard
to remember your debts from up there.
Our father, who art in heaven
also doesn’t answer calls from debt collectors.
Can’t clean up his mess,
left a serpent coiled inside our breasts.
Now my kind claw at their flesh,
save themselves.

I have been drunk for so long
because the wakes never end,
the roads to the cemetery
are packed from one side to the next.

I will turn this procession
into prayer beads from our ribs.
Our dentures
will be these grave stones
with your ten commandments
that I will carve into teeth,
bury our tongues six feet deep.
So when they rise,
resurrection is the only language
they will speak.

We have come to this place to forget how to die.

We’re tired
of holding onto these pictures
for safekeeping.
Turning photo albums into scripture,
these memories give us paper cuts.

On the inside of our thighs.
Between our arms.
Those places that are easy to hide,
until they aren’t.

We have turned ourselves
into frayed fabric for forgotten photographs.
Pulled at our wrists
trying to hide the scars.
Unravelled at the seams
and picked out scenes
of our demise.

And the psychiatrist asks us
if we’ve ever thought of suicide.

My kind have nooses for blood,
and bullets for eyes.
Knives in their throats
that show when we smile.
Born with buildings beneath their feet,
close their eyes and learn how to fly.

I’m tired.

Sighs the breath of my breath,
from here, I will pull
all the strength I have left.
I’m ready to wrestle,
bring your god and your death.

If I lose,
don’t you dare lay me to rest.

Because my spirit is pissed

and he’s fighting next.


Courtesy of the author

Link to the Italian translation

Xabiso Vili South African Xabiso Vili, 2022 Poetry Slam World Champion, is a multi-awarded artist who has perfomed all over the world.

Among South Africa’s top contemporary poets, he has been awarded as spoken word artist, writer, producer, digital strategist and new media artist (he works on augmented and virtual reality projects).

He believes poetry to be a tool for healing – for both the author and the reader/listener and also an instrument to positively influence one’s community, promoting inclusion and the sharing of words in innovative spaces.

His poetry explores the inner world to catch the thin threads connecting it to the outer world. Often with the help of digital audiovisual, he explores the relationship between ancestral past, present and future.

In October 2023 he performed for the first time in Italy at the event “Parole in folle” in Padova and Bologna with the poem above, “Nathi’s Eulogy” and the previously unrealesed “Tonight I Am the James Webb Telescope“.

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