When we cook the smiley, 
or the goat head, 
we first burn the fur off.
Then we scrape and scrape
until only the tender skin 
underneath remains.
We put the head in a pot,
and the four hooves, 
and the tail. 
We boil away the impurities 
until the tight-set jaw loosens
away to reveal something like a smile.
The sour smoke gets into my hair 
and skin and clothes 
and lives in my nose for days. 
I feel like a burnt thing myself. 
When it’s time to eat, 
Mama cuts everything in half,
hollows the eye sockets, 
the cheeks, and the smile.
Then she throws away 
the tip of the tongue to the dogs.
She says if you eat that, 
your name will always be a thing
in the mouth of strangers.
We dig into the brain,
the gelatin-like consistency 
a delicacy. 
Later that night, 
I throw up an eyeball,
still vividly intact,
pupil dilated. 
Mama says it’s the eye 
of a stranger watching us. 
She makes us oil all the door handles 
in the house with cow fat 
so the ghost won’t try to enter 
while we sleep.
Next time we cook the goat’s head, 
I don’t eat it.

About the author:

Veripuami Nandee Kangumine is a Namibian poet and writer. Her poems explore nostalgia and the multiple ways in which it manifests itself. Her work has appeared and been featured in Doek! Magazine, the anthology My Heart In Your Hands: Poems From Namibia, and the literary festival Narrating Namibia, Narrating Africa. She was part of Isele Magazine’s Reading Series: Celebrating World Poetry Day (2022). You can find her @veripoems on Instagram.

Feature image by Peter Neumann on Unsplash