Three poems by Francine Simon


Betel-nut

I am dark but
they say I’m bluffing.
I snack on tamarind seeds

sucking while Mom makes brinjal.
Black tongue mangrove mud between my toes.
She’s not like us but.

This is why I am not like them.
I wouldn’t say that,
but I would say that

when she tells me all about climbing
jackfruit trees at auntie’s house, she calls me
girl, losing my name.

Lately, I try out their voice: oiyoh, but it’s so hard eh!
She, she don’t fright for nothing.
She don’t know nothing too.  

It’s ayyo when I check
my brand new dictionary
a book to mark bed-made words.

The Indians, they put eyes on me except
when I go to Chatsworth
then my sentences end but.

What happened to my English degree?
That’s what I wonder anyway,
spitting betel-nuts, white husk.

Creature

If I could put you on
my belly like an otter
does a crab

and crack you open
with a smooth
dark stone

I would eat you
your grey flesh raw
as a split warm clam

I would lap up
your small smile
and lick your lips

your coral entrails
dripping from my arms
without a word

Naming places

When they came on the boats
one name was Sing(h).
The other, said and sung
– lost.

Both left in faith
expecting us not
to come back.

Nair (Nayar).
Gabriel. Pillai. Placed here,

those names still carry but
we cannot feel them.

And since we don’t know
my father’s family
we are the last of the Simons.

Nothing left for his daughters
but to be girls.


Francine Simon was born in 1990 in Durban, South Africa to Indian Catholic parents. She spent a year in China teaching English as a foreign language.  She is currently a doctoral candidate at Stellenbosch University. Several of her poems have been published in South African literary journals such as New Contrast, New Coin, and Aerodrome. Her poetry has appeared in three volumes of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology. “Tamil Familiars” was shortlisted for the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award 2012. Her writing has been described as bizarre, lyrical and experimental. Her unpublished collection is called Thungachi.

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