“Untitled (Fear of Forty)” by Nozipho Madlala

we fear the slippery
fall to forty
and all we know
about getting old
and lonely.
we fear friends—
the chandeliers who
light up the room
by just being.
we fear their captivating
curves and wit
and perfect skin.
we fear being seen
searching for spaces
in the hearts of men
because we fear that
they’re already laughing
their lungs out
under the ecstatic glow of
chandeliers.
we fear for our toes now
at the throwing of the
bridal bouquet.
we sit out the thrills
that kept us young
and hopeful
when we were still sure
of our chances.
we fear family gatherings
and school reunions
and church too.
the front pews are flowered,
decorated by those who had
arrived early at the altar,
leaving us to fight
for the affections of
late bloomers,
widowers and
divorcees.
but most of all
we fear hope—
we fear the glow in his eyes
at this point
none of us are brave enough
to swallow butterflies
or to occupy the last remaining
spot in love’s corner.
so we remain,
hiding behind chandeliers,
our chances slipping away
just as we were.
to forty.


Nozipho Madlala has been writing poetry since the age of 12 and several of her poems have been published by the South African Poetry Institute, SowetanliveTimesliveBotsotso, I Speak  Hip Hop (magazine) and the Oxford University Press (IsiZulu Literature).  She is a regular contributor to Vernac News, which is a student run, multilingual, online newspaper and, though she writes in isiZulu and English, her poetry has been translated into several other South African languages. She has a keen interest in politics and issues affecting women and  children. Nozipho is also a registered Professional Land Surveyor, with a BSc Honours Degree in Geomatics from the University of Cape Town and a National Diploma in Cartography from the Tshwane University of Technology.

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