Rod MacKenzie

Celebrating the language of stars in the wake of the supermoon

The earliest hanzi, stars are a language to master before dawn. Quick – before they trickle away, leaving everything hushed and open-mouthed. This is why your fingers come together in a woven calligraphy, to catch and caress prayers like polished stones. Your fingers know the twinkling leaves in the trees around you are synonyms for…

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Sacredness, antiphons and transplanting a lemon tree

A certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house…   The silence is all-consuming as I work with spade and hands. As if from far away, I hear my own breath deep in my body, deep in the caves of woodland braided with the smell of sea. Waves nearly splash on their shadows. I…

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For the anally correct and the politically retentive

To my impish mind the human bottom with its neat, vulnerable, curved groove looks like a huge smile. Think of the proverbial plumber in his too tight jeans, on his knees sweating over a drain pipe: he always has a smile from behind, sometimes a little hairy. Half-exposed bottoms cause giggles and bring us down…

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From Columbine to Orlando: Why bother having children?

The most harrowing book I have read is the one I have just finished, the recently published memoir-journal, A Mother’s Reckoning, by Sue Klebold, parent of Dylan Klebold, one of the two teenage murder-suicide shooters of the Columbine school massacre in 1999. Though tragic, it is unfortunately not that uncommon for parents to deal with…

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Why Baleka Mbete is wrong on ‘rape not part of any culture’

Like many people, Baleka Mbete was shocked by Judge Mabel Jansen’s online comments about black people, and responded by saying that rape is not part of any culture. As a person in the forefront of South Africa’s leadership, her public statements ought to be taken seriously. However, here she is entirely wrong. Rape is part…

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The Ntokozo Qwabe Ashleigh Schultz affair: Notes for a screenplay

Antoinette put down her waiter’s tray filled with dirty plates from customer’s tables and softly murmured the words, “We will give tip when you return the land.” She stared at these words on the crumpled piece of paper in her hand and began to laugh. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the…

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Hallowed be Thy name (and the non-sense of property ownership)

“Hello be Thy name.” That is what I used to say as a seven year old at boarding school, in my pyjamas with knees pressed on the cold floor of the dormitory. “Oh cheeses!” I would say whenever frustrated. A fellow boarder pointed out that I was blaspheming the Lord’s name. That I was saying,…

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The state of apartness (Khaya Dlanga’s To Quote Myself, part II)

There is something about well-written childhood stories that can heal. They crackle with the marvel of being alive. Vladimir Nabokov once wrote about the magical act of writing: “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamouring to become visible.” Children, and…

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Can a white man tell Khaya Dlanga how to write a memoir?

Writing a standard book review risks creating a vapid commercial about the new publication. This is different to the journey that serious reading is, and journaling about that reading. Reading frequently, and returning to books that move you, creates a “spiritual travelogue”, and begins to resemble a series of religious stations, reference points to look…

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White privilege: The more things change…

I gaped at the size of the property. I stood with the owner, Peter, on a side balcony of their spacious, slightly dilapidated home. Down below, the tennis courts were dwarfed by the ring of woods surrounding its fence. Some were sagging from the cascade of trees pushing through wires or pressing down the horizontal,…

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