Do not say “I hear the laughter of birds
above our heads.” Say, it is the laughter
of women who empty their washbasins
on the steps of very high houses
whose walls, they say,
can never be cleaned.
Say there have been mistakes
and this laughter is not the laughter
of birds above our hearts, but that of women
who are tired of bronze and blood.
Do not say, “These are songs sung by boys
who dive from rocks.” Say these are songs
that escape like birds from graveyards
as if to mock the mourners
who go back, slowly,
to days that weigh a little less.
Say, if you like, these are the wings
of birds who are the sky’s hinges
and this is the sound of a horizon held open
when a body is laid down.
Yvette Christiansë is a South African-born poet, novelist, and scholar.