Cause of Death

We do not
discuss politics
at the dining table.
We might stab
it with a fork,
lift it to a trembling
mouth and swallow.
We nudge it
to the edge
of our plates,
look past it,
scrub the plates with
barbed wire,
slit our hands,
drain our blood
in the sink.                                                           

These hunger strikes
are a shovel in a graveyard.
 is the epitaph.
Cause of death is silence;
cause of death is a scream.
Somewhere between the two
my country buries me. 

by Tanatsei Gambura

This semester the Poetry Centre is showcasing the research being carried out by Dr Eric White into the American avant-gardes, and we invite you to join us! ‘Shaking the Lights’ is a series of free digital events, open to all, and beginning this Thursday 24 February with an online lunchtime discussion group looking at poetry by Langston Hughes. You can find details of that event and the others in the series on the Poetry Centre website. 

‘Cause of Death’ is copyright © Tanatsei Gambura, 2021, and is reprinted here from Things I Have Forgotten Before (Bad Betty Press, 2021) by permission of Bad Betty Press. You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy from the press website.

Notes from Bad Betty Press:

Brick by brick, Tanatsei Gambura dismantles walls of silence to show us the story behind the story: in a township room in 80s Harare, a straße in Bonn, an otherplace locked into grandmothers’ hips. In her pamphlet, Things I Have Forgotten Before, we find lost brothers, predatory officers, the smiles of women on Fair & Lovely tubes, the concomitance of personal and national cataclysms. We confront our collusion in collective forgetfulness, and the painful but necessary process of rememory. Assured and inventive, Gambura reminds us that words are tools for worldbuilding, engineering language with startling grace.

Find out more about the pamphlet on the Bad Betty Press website, and you can watch her read another poem from her collection via The Poetry Archive.

Tanatsei Gambura is a poet, intermedia artist, and cultural practitioner working transnationally. Her debut pamphlet Things I Have Forgotten Before (Bad Betty, 2021), from which this poem is taken, was the Poetry Book Society’s Autumn 2021 Pamphlet Choice. Tanatsei is the runner-up to the inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize (2020), a Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize longlistee (2020), and a recipient of the Library Of Africa and The African Diaspora (LOATAD) and Savannah Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) Writing Residency (2021). She is an alumnus of the British Council residency, These Images are Stories, the inaugural Obsidian Foundation Writer’s Retreat, and the Writerz & Scribez Griot’s Well residency.

Read more about Tanatsei’s work on her website.

Bad Betty Press is an independent publisher of new poetry, born in 2017 and run by Amy Acre and Jake Wild Hall. Our authors include Gboyega Odubanjo, Anja Konig, Charlotte Geater, Susannah Dickey, Tanatsei Gambura, Matthew Haigh, Kirsten Luckins and Tom Bland. Our books include PBS Pamphlet Choices, Poetry School Books of the Year, a Telegraph Poetry Book of the Month, Laurel Prize longlistees and BAMB Readers Award shortlistees. We’ve been thrice shortlisted for the Michael Marks Publishers Award, named The Book Hive’s Indie Publisher of the Month, and described by The Big Issue as ‘the epitome of bold independence’. Find out more about our books here and follow Bad Betty on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.