“Ovaria”, “Slaughter” and “Neon Poem”: Three Poems by TJ Dema

by    /  September 19, 2012  / 2 Comments


TJ Dema rehearses for the Jazz Poetry concert in Pittsburgh. Photo: Renee Rosensteel

TJ Dema is a veteran spoken word poet from Botswana who has been published in multiple anthologies. She has been performing for over a decade, gracing stages from her home in Botswana to India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and France with her words and voice. This summer she participated in London’s Cultural Olympiad’s Poetry Parnassus, and she is currently a participant in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. In the first week of September Dema payed a visit to Pittsburgh to read at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz Poetry concert.

Not a poet limited to just the page or performance, Sampsonia Way presents three of TJ Dema’s poems below: Two in print, one spoken.


When midnight comes
I find I have been away too long
Blowing my insides upside down
An umbrella in the wind
Too busy believing
In dreams
In the magic to be found
In rat-infested pumpkin patches
And men with time
And one too many glass slippers in their hands

Women learn
That sometimes there is blood
But not death
They learn to conceal the womb with breast
To choose that which can be lost
The hopeful recipe or the constant cake in cupboard
They learn to clutch the knife
Blade to borrowed rib
To empty the cup and be content
With utterly nothing


There is a bellow the cow makes at the moment of slaughter
A kind killer knows how to suddenly stab and slash
The bleating goat’s throat to silence
To still the beat of a heart that surely must know
What is coming? If only once it is too late

He could slaughter and skin a goat
Taller than I could stand then
I would watch, corn-rowed hair
Squeezing conspicuously against an open wall
As he would flatten wild sage with a stomp and double thud

The reeds would lie obedient
Their sweet stench seeping unnoticed into the air
I remember the first time I saw life
Congealed at the heel of a boot, dribbling off a jack-knife
Wet on the Pointer’s short-wire fur and tongue

I am no longer that easily removed
Though the sound my green city tongue made then
Undid all his efforts at kindness
Dragging the ritual performed unwilling
Back from the sage-smoked other side
To bear witness before my youthful verdict

Neon Poem

2 Comments on "“Ovaria”, “Slaughter” and “Neon Poem”: Three Poems by TJ Dema"

  1. tshiamiso makole April 25, 2014 at 2:01 am ·

    awesome. i like Ovaria

  2. alim zaman November 22, 2014 at 3:27 pm ·

    Hi dema,
    i enjoyed overwhelmly your perpormance at Dhaka hey fest 21 november. i am also a poet, but i learn to perfomance poetry from you. pls email me. alim zaman, dhaka, bangladesh

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