Things I Have Forgotten Before

Poetry Book Society Autumn 2021 Pamphlet Choice

‘A calling to a homeland, a calling to the oppressor and a calling to the oppressed.’ Courtney Stoddart

‘The title invokes an inheritance of erasure: what it means to live in a postcolony is to search for things you don’t know or to reach for what must be remembered. Tana makes permanent what might otherwise be transient. There are histories in her sentences.’ Mona Hakimi


Death and Dreaming in my Language

Last night, I dreamt I held my brother to my chest.

An army of uniforms threw their batons into the air 

and onto the body of a man I could not recognise. 

What I recognised was the city, its commonplaceness, 

the prophetic colour of the clouds and their promise 

of something dire. Strange as dreams are, 

Harare is unambiguous.


In my dream, my brother was a boy of three or four,

body a lump in the dip of my breast, body like pupa,

a metronome, laying close, leaning towards something 

other than death. I’ve never watched someone kill a man 

but at night, the happening came seeping through my door 

and into my bed. It wasn’t the first time I dreamt

of my brother as my own child. 


In my language, the dead are welcomed into the home.

But the word for home is also the word for sing, so maybe

invited into a song, to begin and end somewhere foreseeable,

to be interpreted by dreams, to give diagnosis to ailment, to clean

up a scrapyard of men from the streets. Maybe home is a dirge

invoked by dreaming, an elegy for those we can’t afford to lose.



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. Here 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.