What kind of speaking will be spoken when the slave tongues are finally untied?
Is poetry a medium for this speaking? A speaking of and from “beyond what eyes can see”. Because the sorrow is so thick here one “cannot say too much without the sky falling in”. Khadija Heeger’s great achievement in these poems is to forge a language and a speaking that is thicker than sorrow, a language and a speaking that “rattles loose from the cages of our unyielding censorship”.
If poetry is a place that is always being invented with every new scan, every freshly assembled stanza, then Khadija Heeger is a kind of architect of this process that marries “Caledon dust” to the “graveyards filled with the things we never said”. Heeger’s speaking is poetry from the marrow, vannie murg. To read her is to witness a witnessing beyond “the vanity of suffering”.
Thicker Than Sorrow is a collection of blood narratives. Each of these poems is family. One does not always enjoy one’s family. Sometimes one feels condemned to one’s family. But without one’s family one is nothing. Each of these poems stitches itself into a continuum, a fabric of tender re-making, a purposeful engagement with brokenness in the sure knowledge that becoming whole is the real “monument beyond any stone or wood”.
tussenie werwels vannie Langeberg
tot diep innie palm van Keerom gekerf
oppie tong van Slanghoek steen versoen is die naam van Xam
met grond en lug geroem
innie baarmoeder vannie Breede
uit psalms van Xam, Khoikhoi en amaXhosa gelas,
kweel die naam Kaapstad ver, nog fyn, nog sag
‘n ander naam vertaal haar saad – ongeleë geskiedenis beraad
In Hessequa en Chainoqua, Namaqua en Einaqua,
tot daar by Kwe en Kun
Hier lê ons nou in die se kaai
kalbas se kind, boog se punt gepaar met spies en skildKhadija Heeger, Xam se kinnes
in die berge katedraal is Khoikhoi en amaXhosa bloed
met inheems Xam versoet
In Thicker Than Sorrow the poet Khadija Heeger fetches her people, scattered in the country of their dispossession, back from their untidy histories, and the unmarked grave of her tongue is both witnessed and a witnessing. A burial and a resurrection. The ceremony is revealed in blood. Her blood and their blood. One blood. Her poems come from this.
“We are not free.
And the sky can still fall on our heads.”