Uploaded by hollyvanheerden

Small Passing- Poetry Grade 11 Home Language

Small Passing
Ingrid de Kok
Stanza 1
In this country you may not
Suffer the death of your stillborn,
remember the last push into shadow
and silence,
The useless wires and cords on your
the nurse’s face, the walls, the
afterbirth in a basin.
Do not touch your breasts
still full of purpose.
Do not circle the house,
pack, unpack the small clothes.
Do not lie awake at night hearing
the doctor say ‘It was just as well’
and ‘You can have another’
O Although the language itself
appears simple, the stresses
fall on carefully chosen words
to emphasise the tragedy of
the loss: in line two, for
instance, the stresses fall on
“suffer” “death” and
O The verse repeats the
instruction “you may not” and
“do not”, this immediately
makes us recall the context of
apartheid prohibition
Stanza 1
In this country you may not
mourn small passings.
See: the newspaper boy in the rain
will sleep tonight in the doorway.
The woman in the busline
may next month be on a train
to a place not her own.
The baby in the backyard now
will be sent to a tired aunt,
grow chubby, then lean,
return a stranger.
Mandela’s daughter tried to find her
through the glass. She thought they’d
let her touch him.
O Notice how she is
comparing her suffering
with the struggles faced
every day by people in
South Africa, they in turn
make her suffering seem
selfish and petty.
O "Small Passing" deals
with the shock of losing
one's baby in a society
where death is an
everyday reality.
Stanza 1
And this woman’s hands are so
heavy when she dusts
the photographs of other children
they fall to the floor and break.
Clumsy woman, she moves so slowly
as if in a funeral rite
On the pavements the nannies meet.
These are legal gatherings.
They talk about everything, about
while the children play among them,
their skins like litmus, their bonnets
O For the mother, the
death of her own child
is a tragedy beyond
parallel and yet the
poet gets reminded
often -- mainly by
males -- that this is
nothing compared with
the greater tragedy
happening all around
her in apartheid South
Africa, where death is
the norm.
Stanza 2
Small wrist in the grave.
Baby no one carried live
between houses, among
Child shot running,
stones in his pocket,
boy’s swollen stomach
full of hungry air.
Girls carrying babies
not much smaller than
Erosion. Soil washed down
to sea.
O Her sentences are short
and incomplete, it is as if
she is repeating a list to
herself, to keep herself
from crying and being
upset at her own loss.
O As a result of being white
(and, therefore, complicit
in the very inhuman social
system), the woman has
lost her right to claims on
common humanity.
Stanza 3
I think these mothers dream
headstones of the unborn.
Their mourning rises like a wall
no vine will cling to.
They will not tell you your suffering is
They will not say it is just as well.
They will not compete for the ashes
of infants.
I think they will say to you:
Come with us to the place of
We will stroke your flat empty belly,
let you weep with us in the dark,
and arm you with one of our babies
to carry home on your back.
O “‘Small passing’ does project
communities of empathy’ “De
Kok’s poem suggests that
female sympathy can
transcend barriers of race
and class”
O The black women are able to
comfort her and see in her
loss a genuine catastrophe
which is indeed comparable
with all the other tragedies
happening around them. Hers
is literally no small passing.