Josaya Muianga the poet at the food parcel collection

The Poet (Day 91)

This morning I got up early and went to take photos at the Melville food parcel program, as I always do on Thursday mornings. I arrived at the church around 6:30. Due to another commitment, I had to leave at 7:30. At 7:25, I met Josaya.

I overheard Josaya speaking to Sean, who co-founded the food parcel program. Sean asked Josaya where he lives, and Josaya said he doesn’t have a home currently. He used to be a student at the University of Johannesburg. Sometimes he stays with friends. Right now, he sleeps on the street. Last night his blanket was stolen.

Josaya’s outfit caught my eye immediately. Everything was in shades of blue and yellow, not matching (not even his shoes) and yet all going together. “Curated” is the word that comes to mind.

Josaya Muianga.

Josaya was saying something to Sean about the works of Francis Bacon — I assume he meant the 20th-century artist, not the 17th-century English Lord Chancellor, although I didn’t get the chance to find out. There was a paperback book sticking out of the pocket of Josaya’s dark blue robe.

“What are you reading?” I asked Josaya, pointing to the book, and he pulled it out: The Shooting of the Christmas Cows by David Medalie. I’d never heard of the book or the author, but somehow it also matched perfectly.

I asked if I could take Josaya’s photo holding the book. “He has a publisher,” Josaya said ruefully, pointing to Medalie’s name. “I don’t have a publisher.”

“Are you a writer?” I asked, and Josaya said yes. He’s a poet, in fact. He said I could google him to find his work.

It took me several attempts to type his name — Josaya Muianga — into a note on my phone. My fingers were cold and made clumsy by fingerless gloves. Autocorrect kept changing “Josaya” to “Joshua”, which Josaya patiently pointed out. Finally I got it right. I also took down Josaya’s email address. I wanted to whatsapp him his photo but he doesn’t have a phone.

A few hours later, I finally got the chance to google Josaya. His name popped right up, as he’d promised, on a page called Two Poems by Josaya Muianga. The first poem, About Perfection, starts like this:

You are too over cooked,
I adored you when you were crisp and light,
With the yellow scent of turmeric your edible enigma;
But now you are over cooked
Dripping, limp with oil like an obese pizza,
the vacuum abhored by nature!

Heavy.

I suddenly realized I was late and had to say goodbye to Josaya rather abruptly. I hope he finds a publisher someday. I hope he finds a blanket tonight.

Josaya

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you’d like to donate to the food parcel program from within South Africa, please send a payment to the Viva Foundation using the following bank details:

Name: Viva Foundation
Branch: FNB Olympus Plaza Code 258155
Acc Nr.: 622 4884 3270
Reference: Melville
SWIFT: FIRNZAJJZXXX

If you’d like to donate from overseas, please contact me.

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17 Comments

  • Reply Louise Whitworth June 25, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Oh man, how can we find Josaya? I would love to try get him a phone…. There’s a poetry relief fund has opened for freelance poets and a competition too, it would be great to introduce him to the Hear My Voice platform and community, they are so supportive and an inspiring group to be around for poets. I loved the poem x

    Details on the Hear My Voice poetry relief: http://tiny.cc/poetry-relief-fund

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      I will send you his email address now-now 🙂

  • Reply Maarten June 25, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Hi Heather,
    I met a cool publisher last week and he published the poems of Shorty (Gloria) our street poet from Melville. I’m supporting this lady for some time already to keep her going.
    You can mail me if you want at maarten@sisiza-ukusiza.com if you want to know more or maybe make a plan for his poems.
    Wonderful picture of Joshua.

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      I will message you and send you his email address 🙂

  • Reply violetonlineisonline June 25, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    apart from this fabulous story, how important is it to GET OUT THE HOUSE!

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 7:06 pm

      So important and also freaking difficult.

  • Reply Catrina June 25, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    What a lucky coincidence that Josaya met you!
    I’m so glad you could give him a voice – who knows where this will lead to. 😊

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      I hope it will be lucky for him. It was lucky for me too!

  • Reply Peggy Laws June 25, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    Indeed a lucky meeting – but dear God, I hope he gets a blanket tonight. I believe these last few months have presented you with enough material for a book Heather.

    • Reply 2summers June 25, 2020 at 9:13 pm

      Yes I believe you’re right.

  • Reply dizzylexa June 26, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    I’m intrigued by his odd shoes as our garden service guys all wear odd shoes and according to them they get them from what I gather is a paraplegic place where people only have one leg and therefore the other shoe is not needed. I think I need to have another chat with them. I hope he gets his poems published.

    • Reply 2summers June 26, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      That’s super interesting. He did start to explain to me where he got them but it was all so busy and rushed, he couldn’t finish telling me the story.

  • Reply AutumnAshbough June 26, 2020 at 4:55 pm

    I hope he gets more than a blanket, too. “Obese pizza,” is excellent.

    Also, I think this is one of the first times I have not left your blog hungry.

    • Reply 2summers June 26, 2020 at 4:57 pm

      Hahahaaaa. No one wants to be an obese pizza.

  • Reply Litza June 29, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    Do you know if he was lucky to get in touch with anyone to help him with his poetry / blanket? Poor guy

    • Reply 2summers June 30, 2020 at 7:01 am

      Hi Litza, Josaya was at the church again to to pick up his food parcel ticket and he got in contact with someone who is going to help him 🙂

      • Reply Litza June 30, 2020 at 9:00 pm

        Some good news! hope it all works out

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