BEFORE I FORGET: HER NAME WAS PETRONELLA

A love poem to a sister I once knew.

She was an artist just like you

and I

A storyteller.

A fellow traveler in this journey called life.

With hopes and dreams which she weaved and

Crocheted  into multi-coloured hats and scarves.

Their  imperfections  perfect against the biting Johannesburg winter.

Ever smiling.  Warmly as if  you were sunshine.

The gaps on her teeth revealed a soft spoken, pink  tongue of a poet.

Whose voice could not reach beyond her shadow.

You had tea with her.

Maybe shared a beer, a smoke.

She showed you her wares

You bought a hat, a scarf.

Out of pity

You promised to pay

Soon

Forgetting  that she too needed to eat.

Just like you

Yet she smiled and said Okay.

Next time my brother. Next time my sister.

Before I forget.

She was Petronella.

A daughter of educated travelers

Who moved as ancient nomads

From country to country

Until they found a place among us.

Yes she is that lady.

The free spirit.

The one  who lived in  Soweto

Afraid to stay alone – in an empty house

While neighbours watched her

Every move.

And stole from her the minute she was gone.

She was the lone storyteller.

Who hitched-hiked and organized lifts to attend your show

your exhibition opening.

She walked through perilous Johannesburg nights

Criss-crossing the city

to attend your gig and dance to your music.

She’s the one that asked for a place to lay her head

For just one night.

For the love of Art.

With you she was among friends.

at home.

Because that is where she could sell her  warmth

Share her wisdom and  hear your stories.

Before we forget.

Her name was Petronella.

You didn’t even notice that she was there.

Yet she loved you.

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