Poems


   The majority of poems below were written after the death of my husband on 8 June 2019. I had been writing poems very privately before this date – some of which appear non-chronologically in the collection – but had no idea that this format would become the only conceivable form of expression that would open up in my bereavement. To present them here close to a year before the first anniversary of his death is terrifyingly exposing but I do so as a testament to him. He was an extraordinary human being clothed in total ordinariness. It’s paradoxical in an introduction to a collection of poems but it is true to say that there are no words to describe how much I miss him.

Poem in the round 001

Poem in the round

willing a poem – please come
when counting spoons for Christmas
please come – when the gardener needs a plate of lunch
when I am pickled in
sour juices – counting spoons -
all of my own making
me who has everything – needs a plate of lunch
willing a poem – please fill me
remind me that – pickled in sour juices – I am happy
and the sun is shining, shining, shining
for Christmas
the gardener is waiting
me who has everything – all of my own making
or not or not or not


Love's clothes

Love’s clothes

I wear the jersey of love inside out
unravelling at the seams
splitting under the arms and
they call it co-dependence
my shoes they too
reflect a partnership under the bed
the left stretched where it makes room for a bunion
the right right beside it

this coat is lined, its pockets deep
I hunker down inside as if in a house then
gone
I float away to potter, plot, paint

a bra needs another to be hooked
socks balled, jeans zipped
two pegs for each item on the line
unless you share with the neighbour
love’s clothes are flapping in the wind
I gather them up and bring them in


 

Window seat

Window seat

the tight fist unfurls
as we rise in a windy roar
and the palm of the earth
opens up below
through the corneal window
quaint miniatures soon
morph into vast mineral textures
a spread of dust on a surface
that breathes out, expands
water glints in discrete strokes
a flock of grey cloud-doubles
lie down, shadows on the land
loops, squiggles and lines
loosen
open to interpretation
but I do not know how to read the signs
I do not know how often the life line is crossed
a spot of turbulence and the air we float on is
stomach real
down down down, this speck of me
the earthskin below is untroubled
as I tumble towards it.

left and right

Left and right

I trace my cultural alienation to two texts
one a thicket, a wall of print
in justified columns
from right to left I stumble
stones which I must break open
in a parched mouth
with newly minted teeth
the sounds which emerge
do not make sense

then there are pages white and crisp as
Portuguese rolls
on which the letters float on milk
with ease I hear stories
and see in watercolour stains the whole world
before me left to right

002 (2)

Milnerton beach

I am broken into bits
and pieces strewn adrift
in sandy beds beside the sea
scalloped plaster tells of a lady growing old who
daily smeared a thought upon her walls
that now lie flat like jagged shelves on the sand
I am cement conglomerate chunks
cast aside, pillars once strong
thrown down smashed
blocked up entrance denied
but the pattern of my craft is still visible,
each brick and its mate lie in rows
nuzzling each other
between a gloop of hardened mortar
We cling together for our dear lives
What broke me into bits
and pieces strewn adrift
in sandy beds beside the sea?

to personify 001

To personify the sea

to personify the sea its moods, grumbles, roars
is to recognise the unliving in our core
the salt in our blood, the minerals in our bones
that which we live with or make.

the door behind me I let bang shut
what she said I said should have said on the seashore
I print my case into the hot sand

waves. Rocks. Spume from a blowhole
cold water spills over my toes
and rims them with foam. A shell does a dance
backwards into the surf and pebbles are
applauding my performance

I return, place a stone under the cushions of the settee
and to my room to write about the sea

002 (4)

And everything like it

the day my father chopped out
my heart
he had tears in his eyes
telling stories
and everything like it

the day I sliced a block off
the slab of damaged love
I had followed him sheepishly to visit a friend
in a penthouse flat
while my baby lay tied to a hospital bed
and everything like it

the day my father died
I was in a taxi
on my way to visiting him
with gritted teeth
a Bergen-Belsen corpse
and everything like it

finger2 001

Touch wood

the man shot in the street
a husband neighbour father
woke up dead trussed up like a turkey
in an Avbob parlour

touch wood I have not been tested

the baby maybe one chromosome off
watch the child in braces
in spasms incontinent
incoherent

touch wood I have not been tested

the disease eating the body
one greedy bite after another
leaving only left-overs
until they too are gone

touch wood I have not been tested

a bump in the road as I race to work and instantly I understand
on a high temple altar in a jungle against orange skies
young maidens brought to die
have this one god, not me, not mine
especially not mine. Keep mine mine

touch wood I will not kill

family 001

Family

abuse aside the genetics expert said
it matters not the home
our family of four, it follows
fuck-up, fool, philistine and faggot
were just that
fuck-up, fool, philistine and faggot
and that was when the sperm hit egg
all that is intractable is intractable
the whine, the cries, the way the boy
buts his head. ‘It’s not my fault’
the carrots are cooked so we carry the can
what passed on to us passed on to them
all in the frigging dark.

boat 001

Leavers

leavers
you’ll need for this journey -
shoes, a coat and hat neatly ready in your cabin for the greeting
on the other side
pots, pans for the air food that you ‘ll cook and eat
or not eat
perhaps a packed lunch?
a blanket shake out the dead leaves before using
some tools for in case
four friends’ numbers why not phone at your ease
to reminisce over past picnics
an answer to a most pressing question – why?
you may now know
I do not

hotel 001

Exchange

a porous border between Kassiesbaai and Arniston
is the ugly white hotel
from which toting tourists turning uphill
emerge snapping. We too rise from our sandy beds
and cross to take the airs amongst the local colour stuffed
in pretty whitewashed homes pictures cannot steal

downhill drift the odd anglers, poles up high
vehicles free-wheel churning sand and pounding
an insane beat. The harbour beach is crammed
amongst the shabby brights, the guests in pale gowns
and, overalled, traversing the high cliff’s edge
cooks and cleaners come to service us

at the hotel’s feet lie rows of pedicured cars
down below, brown children blow air cigars

noospheric 001

Noospheric nights

raise your glass to all the paintings
now on show
that never left the night studio
never made it out the door
still lives stillborn, social commentary
figurative studies
sweated out and tossed on the dark ceiling
no blood-spotted sheet to
display at dawn
the stacked canvasses, the piling of paper
unabated, all blank
colours, strokes, scratchings
muted. And mutated
for every decade or two
they reappear like old friends at the door
seascapes lapped the open-eyed shore
geometrics jangled in hot primaries
behind closed lids
the robot beggar at the half closed window
intercepted the woman’s abstract musings
coloured smoke rose from the head
hands stirred soapy dishes
the mind metaphors the mind
a compost heap that must be turned
images proliferate
are brushed out of the sheets
like crumbs the next morning
by this
I now pronounce this exhibition open

bergie 001

Walking the Dog

months after the Lilac Ball
now a faded memory
jacarandas fling down
woody castanets
strewn on dog-shitted earth
our conversation is coloured
in patches of green and brown
did you see that man?
what this one should do
I can’t believe that
the sky answers in gusts of her own
unlike his free-wheeling colleagues
whose moves splatter the fields
Ajax is tethered
and as we circumscribe
sports parameters marked in chalk
now the domain of dogs and their servants
he whimpers and strains
a fire flares, dark forms, a flash of red tracksuit top
a bergie encampment is tucked
politely on a bank
longer grass denotes the border
between dogwalkers who have strayed
from their televisions
to sling balls on long whips
to a small people hunkered down
under the sky
an exercise bike, white, upright and trim
pokes up from the grass
on it the woman wearing red
pedalling away going exactly nowhere
the front door closes behind us
Ajax’s claws scratch on the floor
should we cook the mince
or is it last night’s veggies?
what about chicken?
what’s on the box?

knitting 001

Knitting on pencils
After a visit to a Grade 6 class in Lotus River

knitting on pencils
in desks, all shapes and sizes
hair short, bunched, spiked, boys, girls
all-sorts, liquorice
shoelaces knotted in shiny boats or scuffed,
prows agape

it’s the latest craze
sharpened tips dig in to cast on, cast off
short pencils, long pencils
stitches with nothing to ease the crossing
nothing to stop them falling off the back

short of stuff or stuffed with vim?
from the big text outside and in I read
human potential short-changed

001 (2)

Plea

please my lord she asked me to so pleaded the man at the dock charged with murder I came in to steal and she looked at me her head on the pillow and I held my weapon and she said go ahead so I did but please sir she did agree to my murdering her please and she was pleased when I did it sir she was pleased

eyes 001                            \

Full stop

the moment of crumpling
the moment that we ended
a reel that plays again and again
two live blue eyes
puzzled looking in quiet panic?
a few words
then the moment of crumpling
over and over
from that to this
in a heartbeat deferred
stopped in full
the spool slips back to
the moment of crumpling
and crumpling and gone
rocking backwards and forwards
from that to this
full stop

menagerie

Menagerie

A widow has moved into my house now that I have vacated it. Some cheek! Chains of faeces in the bowl, mirrored face of creases; attracts rats into the roof lured into traps baited with cheese; wipes pus out of the dog’s eyes; sniffing out man scents with her budgie nose dumps food for the cat in a pink dish muttering to herself on a downturned mouth; pricks and plies her needle to sew time; long yellow teeth in a metalled mouth brings birds into the garden to strut, hop and skip, gaudy and proud amongst caterpillar-eaten leaves; rude flowers erupt from cacti; cries vinegar and chews her food at the sink, dishes on the stove. About turn! The Baba Yaga rotates her house on its chicken feet, grins and bears it.

car 001

Peter

when the knot was slipped and the drawstring
fell loose
spilling
your
fire, once concentrated
into the vast, vast universe
you were lost to me
I cannot smell your scent in the wind
before the metronome wipers clear them
each raindrop that bursts on the windscreen
does not carry a grain of you dissolved
that I can tell
only imperfectly
you set up shop inside me
an indistinct hologram
- a hollow gram -
a gram, a grain, a ghost
clawing at my belly

cupboard

Cupboard

red and blue, no green is better
I choose carefully
this shirt with that
a scarf that picks up
shoes especially the shoes
to dress this mannequin
that I find myself inhabiting
ha! no store front model
but a dummy that mouths
words to herself
to soothe
it’s alright
it’s alright
hurry along
to hands splotched in age
rifling through the rack
shocking pink
yellow, burnt orange
cream, patterned, plain
this with that
then -
something is missing!
something huge has gone!
swallowed by the dark
that lives in the back
and has reached its arms in between
and snatched it away
for good

without you

Without you

I can live without you
I cannot live without you
I live without you
I should not live without you
without you I
without you I am not

cold

Cold

the thin cold sheet
of words, ideas, mind-art
I draw around my solitary self
like long before
before my life – forty one years! – inside
your sheltering blanket.
I walked around the frosty Madison lakes
went to films
scribbled in notebooks endlessly
the future lay on the frozen water
ahead and you would come and be it
I snuggled into you
our breath smoked together

002 (3)

Third state

shamelessly pursued
dazzling mineral being
flashing teeth, eyes
maddeningly desirable
I pecked and pecked for years
without purchase
finally caught and ingested – willingly
flooded warmth
in the body.
every cell was oxygenated
and glowed quietly, secure
for years and more years
now in the last and third state
what have I?
is it hard or soft?
is it something at all?

a 001

A

apart rather than a part
always in all ways
adrift
not merely lonely but alone
rattling out chains
of self-sorry sobs
girding my loins
to withstand an attack!
I sink into the warmth of the headless
bottomless chest buzzy with
your voice
and it shelters me
a while

grass 001

Park

a dryness in the park
sinking hummocky sand
wheaten weeds leached bleached
grass heads bending in the wind
echoes
the mundane repeat
the it is happened
the plod of the day
perhaps the pills?
the many seeds
hook their teeth
and glare

i 001

The I

the I in the we
was freed and stands alone
on
shaky knees
and clenched feet
rocking
with the
intermittent gales
that brew and strike
unheralded
this I
a filthy thing
it eats, shits and thinks
talks to itself
with blind stubborn
will
to survive
will it?

man 001

 

Four months

looking out from within
the first man drawing
by a toddler
four careless lines radiate
from a greedy circle
peppered with eyes and mouth
uncouth thing
based on what is seen of the self
or known, given names?
I am that thing
arms and legs of another
an imposter
counting things
days keys hours bills months
one, two, three, four months
since he fell over dead

hands 2 001

Who is this

who is this
inhabiting my body
when
unrecognisable hands
open and close curtains
doors and alarms
put on shoes
let out the dog
hardly recognisable
when unwanted glimpses
are glimpsed
in a house that is and isn’t
ours – a word that no longer exists ?
who is this new crying creature
I find living here?
reeling, kneeling, keening
insanity reigns

balloon 2 001

Dog walk

suddenly tired of friends’ small
and big talk
ever circling the crater
I take the dog to the park
alone
to fill the balloon
with my own gas
as Omo tussles, cavorts
and pronks in the tall grass
with friends
I find myself breathing you in
grateful
that nothing was broken inside you
by trauma
only softened
sweetened
dog walkers cast their
comments on the sharp
wind, inconsequential
weightless
and for a while
my burden lifts

clock 001

Interior

key in, door-clack bolt-crunch, beep, ALARM CODE! 1, 9, 0, 9, 0, beep, rap rap, foot-steps, phone-ring, run run, no not now, shoe-squeak, thought voice, why why, nail-scratch, dog-drag, no no, bird-call, rumble, fridge-hum tock-clock-tick, must eat, cat-yowl plate-rattle, click, tap-scream, off, tap tap, tooth-grind dog-snore piss-splash, tock, message come, night come, thought sound, thought wash, click, hum haw, slip-sleep, slide
“Vivic!” clearly, I am awake I hear you

flowers 001

Flowers

outrageous expression of longing
trumpeted in colour, form and scent
green leaves temporarily forgotten
they spring out in the garden
to snag attention with
twirls, swirls, pirouettes and fancy moves
showing off their painted faces
in adoration bees and beetles
flock to them, the wind applauds
and sends them scuttling and bowing
birds whistle an encore
both substantial and insubstantial
petal stamen and anther
- who is counting? -
they stab one in the heart so
fleeting, so sharp is their meretricious call

how 001

How

how can the blinds still roll
the fan turn, the water run
the doors open and close
without your quiet breath
your strong-light tread
your willing hands
your will?
tell me how

tap 001

Tap-tap-tap

in his tool chest
in a wooden box
a smaller box
which reads
40pc. tap and die set
tap-tap-tap
if I tap on the box
can I please die too?

peasant stock 001

Peasant stock

yes, my father bought encyclopedias
from a door to door man
smelling of strange pungent glue
cracked when opened
when rarely opened
if opened is the word for
pages that pout when parted
American text, incomprehensible
they stood their ground
on a shelf in the lounge
a phalanx of blue leather

in marmalade brick houses
in suburbs aptly named
Sydenham and Orange Grove
I saw scant ball and claw imbuia
and upright prim pianos
behind closed glass doors
to me they signified
doctor fathers
professional mothers
offerings to the god of good breeding
culture

at home my mother decorated
my father smothered an indoor veranda
in knotty pine
heavy velvet curtains hung from
wooden rings
ugly glass light fittings
replaced the colonial
the house they turned into a wild
see-saw of original crumbling edifice
hidden at the back
and a modern extension
Arizona style in front
a façade to be worthy, to make good, to out-do

what I wanted was a life that was whole
where front and back were united
and books were read
music and glassy silence
at the centre

lessons 001

Ten Lessons from Peter

1. let’s get started
2. trust your children will come to their senses
3. spin gold from straw
4. never tell a story more than three times
5. pursue enjoyment not necessarily mastery
6. observation over domination
7. your strong opinions are a trap
8. escaping into past and future erodes the present
9. be present
10. words are decorations life’s the thing

chops 001

The Cheese and the Chops

two offshoots, no offspring
from a tangled twin bush
the Cheese and then the Chops
each carrying layers of
some and some not
some from the rootstock
some of their own
grabbed from the air
the Cheese has his father’s glitter
the Chops his mother’s pallor
vice-versa shape of the head
one resists, one embraces
yet so quickly it swings the other way
cold, warm, long, short, far, near
in refracted patterns and colours
each turn of the tube
a marble caught in a wire cage
of a kaleidoscope
this I see
a boy stands at the beach looking out to sea
one hand clasps an elbow at his back
his father stands beside him
identical stance
left arm bent right straight
and I remember the father of the father
many years before
doing the same

 

the cheese and chops 001

The sea

it’s the closest
to where he is
the thick glassy walls
turning over
the lace light on
rippled sunned water-skin
his son told of how
when he and his brother
spilled the ashes in the sea
the grey matter clumped
did not dissolve as if greasy
and he felt nothing at all
the mother watched her boys
from the shore as they
walked out on a far rocky shelf
becoming small children again
they took off their shoes and socks
exposing white winter feet
like leaves to do the deed
the sea sucks and splurges
opening and closing its breast
roaring but not in pain

short cut 001

Short cut

bedevilled by leaky sphincters
assaulted by falling teeth, hair
failing eyes, limbs
oh and prostrated by that devil
the prostate
you ducked them all
and took the short cut
flying straight out of here
relatively intact

word and line 001

Word and line

trapped in a web of five
plus granny
the girl child draws and paints
to find her way
a hardcover notebook covered in
ersatz wood in sticky plastic
hides her writing
printed not in curses
as she likes to joke
knitted in words or
unloosened in line
a jug divided into segments
a philosophical
theory, a proposal
with unremembered content
a dream diary
an abridgement
of Oliver Twist decorated with
illustrations that do not satisfy
only two chapters before
it peters out
floods of painted sheets
colours and shapes made on bent knees
in a darkened room
overshadowed by trees
when and how will the future arrive?
freed of sticky threads
some dead some frayed
she has found now the end
the broken line has been picked up
and is resumed

next door 001

Next door

sir, I will not call you neighbour
you chopped down the old tree
that erected silhouettes
against bright light above us
compass points woven
into spoked wheels
turned back raptors from their home branches
and evicted stars at the tip
the moon you tore off, the earth
you covered in a plastic pelt
air conditioners groan in our joint air
high walls shield your wife and kids from view
your person too is unseen
save large dark cars
sliding in and out of a subterranean lair
in your concrete bunker
on the day of your arrival
a blushing maid appeared at our front gate
bearing a paper plate of stale bakes
they were feeble crumbs
held out on a shaky hand

 

synagogue seats 001

Mr Sinrodin’s synagogue seat

the rich are as short as the poor
he said relating his conversation
with the boss
and his unavoidable expenses
his yearly subscription
what can a man do?
click! a shiny onomatopoeic pebble he offers
to join the pile
of aphorisms I store
off his snaky, sly tongue

bowl 001

Imagination

gone to his maker, in heaven, in hell, at peace,
crossed the river Styx, we’ll join him one day
in the land of the departed
the happy hunting grounds
the big fishing spot in the sky
words trip off tongues
without sense
without even an inner picture
meant to console but also to hide from ourselves
the complete and absolute end
which we are unable to conceive
what words for nothing? what words for gone?
wild stories we fabricate are easier to believe
than just this

the real mystery is the opposite
life itself and the more life that erupts from it
the dogginess of a dog life, the song of a bird
the creep of green growth over the soil
each thing tiny and big and alive
but mostly the huge overfilled bowl of thought
over a lifetime
(admittedly now spilled out)
it’s not why did he die
this particular spark
but why did he live?
how?

inside outside

Inside outside

she looks coolly into the mirror
to catch herself
and observe how different
a tantrum feels to how it looks
a big small face
white and creased
runnels of tears on the cheeks
inside a dark red hoarseness
a rage, a rasping noise

she walks in the park crying
averting her eyes
from the other dog-walkers
in case they stop her
“Are you lost, little girl?”
when they should say
“What have you lost, old lady?”

after after 001
After after

what lies beyond after after
when the wound has stiffened
but not closed
when the tears flow yet
- endless, those -
when the loss takes shape
in the actual person and the numbness leaves?
the emptiness ahead
open vistas of the same
- endless, this -
till an unknown end
for which one waits
endlessly

fishing 001

Fishing

absorbed by the wild world
for hours and hours
alone
or in the lee of sharper, darker, bigger shadows
on the dunes
blasted by sun, sand, wind, water, salt
happy to join in, to emulate or strike out
happy to succeed or not
happy to fish for stories
catch life in a net of words
and carry it back
to release to the supper crowd
the prize was the big fish he brought
whom he met
what they said
what transpired
his ego
as attenuated as the transparent gut
he sliced through the waves

dress 001

The dress

as fluorescent pink and orange stripes
can be when woven in simple cotton
that’s how pleased I was at the party
I invited myself with an uncle
on New Year’s Eve
flirtation was the harmless parlance
that was bandied back and forth
in his presence, always. The twirl
of fizzing colour to 60s music
played in the 70s
in the car a few words, faint warning shots
but how? I look at my hands pleased
in their candy-striped cradle-lap
glazed a boozy softness by the dark outside
later in bed in a boy’s bedroom
dress dropped on floor, a melting ice cream
when the door opens to
what is unbelievable
twice, the uncle enters cock first
twice I push the door closed
next morning I dress and smell the sweat
in the armpits of my deflowered frock

a mumbled apology in the kitchen
tells me one thing
I have done this before

poem 001

Poem

please do not read between the lines
focus on the strewn path, the river bed
where letters are embedded
or a shelf of pot and pan lookalikes for
domestic consumption
the white lines, tickled as they are
by crossed ts or looping ys or gs
even capital fellows
solid bricks not empty
read the poem
refrain from making connections
when the letters are apart
when the letters are apart

bird 001

Many times

many times a bird flies against a window
wings and beak scrabbling on the glass
searching for an illusory path
there’s a poet on the other side
hammering on the keys
no thought fox this but a
manifestation in bone, blood and feather
conjured up by the garden
and flung against human periphery
to pique, to peck, to prey
to insert words where none
yet stood on the empty page
I am here I am alive
barely I will survive

fish scale 001

Fish scale

in my mourning crumpled bed
a tiny fingernail, a scrap
smaller than a pinkie’s
cropped and curved
etched into cut glass translucence
there are radiating lines
in quadrants
a cat’s cradle poised
between my clumsy fingertips
looking through it I see the fish’s flank
where tiled and replicated
by the thousands
each duplicate message
is tucked into the next
flashing rainbows in accord
the threads unwind
fan apart or draw together
leading to each leaf
stamped by a pattern and spun out in green
gathered up by spreading wooden arms
and tossed into the sky as a tree
lassoed unleashed I send
threads to scrawl the backs of shells
the ridged mussels, striped pebbles
a spider’s trembling web
and back through the keratine window
journeying to my bed
where I am snagged
by a tickle on the thigh

boxes 001

Two boxes

two cardboard boxes stowed under the bed
a delicate silk of dust and webs
coats their utilitarian sides
collects on their half-squashed lids
when I am found dead and dessicated
alone up above them
who will be their custodian?
puckered cross-patch lips
sucked in and held
like toothless gits
storing resentments
perceived slights
affronts
unfairnesses
infringements
infuriations
a coiled fuse snakes out from each
poisoned boxy organ
I crouch on my knees
cupping a lit match
in my hand

cowboy 001

Dead man

I wake up to a dead man every morning
takes up the slack in the gap between sleep and awake
mounts his ol’ faithful hairy legs grip my sides
shouting yippee ki yay throws his lasso in the air
my wild hero outed lifting dust off the earth
coats my skin blows into my ears and eyes
a sharp whip on the rump
gales and thundering up above
jabbering and cussing whooping and singing
snatches of song and lots beside
whispers and mumblings
a laugh that rises like a great bird passing by
blue sparks break off from his eyes
and fall like cinders
smidges of soot on my flanks
I rise on two legs
take my heavy cudgel and beat him back
from where he came
gallop away my cowboy darling
so to start the solitary day

shoes 001

Shoes

the thief that broke into our house
left wearing a pair of mine
and his own neatly set out on the carpet
opening the invitation – politely I thought -
to step into his life
I immediately declined
but found over the next few months
the ersatz brand name two
mesh fleshed tongue depressed
but this side short of scuffed split, worn and torn
had burrowed their way into me
something akin to an intimate fondness
brewed and I could not bear to throw them away
the feet that carried them in
remained unattached to a body a mind I could find
it in my mind to find although I found myself searching
at times even sending him by telepathic means
messages of solace and comfort
wishing him well in my new Spanish leathers
I drew the line when my son wanted to try them on
- they’re not that bad – he said as I carried them out
still they remain sitting primly next to the dustbin
not quite discarded
waiting for someone else to take up the challenge

shower 001

Shower

a shower rather than bath only
no things instead of all things
a place to paint, bigger
desires deferred
shoulds shelved
no picking up dog shit
telephone bills and groceries
small guilts in a thick layer of happiness
for so many years
another life had been growing underneath
silently like a white grub
ripped open
transparent new skin
it now emerges
stunned
I expose it to the sun a few minutes a day
talk it up
bathe it in salt
while it leaks and bleeds and blisters
waiting for time to do the healing
that does not come.

elephant 001

Sustainable development

You see the Gabonese are lazy
they wait for office jobs
so said the Gabonese man at the wheel
as we bumped along the rutted streets
if there is produce for sale
it’s sure not have been grown by a local
and it’s true I do not see a single field anywhere
no agriculture?
no slash and burn or clearing
to grow soybeans in
forests relatively intact
animals left in their homes
I hear an elephant trumpet
it’s either or
in the great equatorial forest of Ripondo
a taxi ride from the capital
that oxymoron sustainable development
obliterated by lush soft squelch underfoot
blown away by trees arching way up high
I return home to a brand new baby
mewling and nuzzling at the breast
greed clothed in simplicity and innocence
she is why it is impossible

 

post office 001

Clareinch Post office

how quickly the person falls into the past and dies
and daily life takes hold in stamps and forms and letters
step into our murderous post office
in the post hysteria months
all vestiges of the outpouring
in flyers flowers slogans and candles
gone – not even sticky tape residue
ghost marks their plenitude
restored to its uninviting essence
the post office is itself again
but feminised perhaps
to soothe jangled nerves, to lull the terror
on the one end of the shabby sour space
three lady post workers sit
each wearing their squat cardboard cubicle
with correctness and appropriated presence
still one can hardly help to peep behind
to the dull carpet in the back
where blood was ostensibly found
it is the script of the attending worker
that insists new beginnings
smooth, elegant, measured
- good enough for a signwriter I think -
it fills the registration form with certainty
neat cool stitches to close the wound

 

Space left

give them the room to breathe to be
don’t crowd them out
in conversation in thoughts
give people their due
and now I have stepped right out of time
- not purposely, you understand -
and given you the space to
make a new life
while your friends battle on with
old grumpy men
diminished partners
uncoupled, unencumbered
I’ve left you the space to breathe to be
take up the challenge, old girl!

 

Telkom shop

spun out of glass, glossy displays and
designer signage signifying shop, style and service
there are no seats
for the shabby bits of humanity
in burka, plaid shirt or grubby sportswear
that stand in the lit ice cube
waiting patiently for their number to come up
and dutifully one by one
offer themselves to the counters
bent in on aching legs
to explain their psyches
at great length and depth
the origin of the archetypes
that inhabit their souls
the therapists in their blue Telkom shirts
nod encouragingly
and tap away at their terminals
no doubt making notes
no laughter here, hushed voices
while a young woman finally leaves her station
a silky headscarf swishes at her neck
I detect an unburdening a lightness
an elderly man with a small goatee switches feet
and inches closer
his crumpled brown skin set off by chrome
pleads with his eyes for his pain to be
taken seriously
and is taken so indeed Telkom style

 

Water rising

when the neighbours drilled for water
during Cape Town’s drought
they struck a seam 700 meters deep
and now the excess runs down
our shared gutter staining the cement channel
a rusty orange iron
a weeping wound environmentally uncouth
a stripe in the gutter
as shameful as a used sanitary napkin tossed
into the public eye
when Peter died I too was drilled
and my aquifer breached
my tears rise unabated unstoppable
although I hide it’s there for all to see
in the open in the street
in the park in the house
a constantly renewable resource
bearing stinging salt which I imagine
is lost at the rate of set teaspoons per day
and which – not knowing
if it is being leached from my very bones -
I replenish with a hopeful twist
of the grinder on my food
thinking of my granny who would describe a bland man
as one without salt, without pepper
and wondering if depletion on such a fundamental level
will lead to disappearance disintegration destruction
willing it so

 

Heritage walk

to find out about the farm Oranjezicht
I find out that it’s the
collection of walking shoes comfy cottons
fluffing in the wind
and accommodations to grey hair
that clothe us sagging flagging third agers
that strikes the notes
it’s the young homeless man
sponge bathing in the bandstand
that shelters four pup tents
pointedly oblivious to our circle
and not its provenance that stays
it’s the smell of human shit
and not the hedges of rosemary buchu
and lavender that I take away
the gables broekie lace and bay windows
veer off and fuse with the cloud-topped mountain
my eyes slide over the mullioned windows
barriers to penetration
the words spoken do not take hold
but the spread of sickle carob pods
that bed into the pavement tar
leave a patterned imprint and
lock into the sense-mesh of a mind
incapable of attaching to any facts
alive only in that it is like an animal
ferreting on a path

 

A poem in kelp

A calm sea offers a poem in kelp
the font of small heaps and posts
teased open, parsed
brown as ink
in rows gently drifting

 

8s and 9s

Forget about being all at 6s and7s
not given to superstitious numerology myself
I find myself enmeshed in 8s and 9s
8 for his deathday and his birthday
9 for our wedding anniversary
his sons’ birthdays also 9s
no particular significance I’m sure
except the knell of the numbers
how they reverberate
in hopscotch skips
in the chalk marks on the street
after throwing the stones
which I bend to pick up
on one foot
repeating a refrain
for someone whose number is up
a pattern to give time shape
keeps the bogeyman at bay

 

Because

because of Bill Gates
because he was wanted
because of that lab in Wuhan
because it was time
because it’s a Jewish conspiracy
any reason is a good reason
to survive the evolutionary brain
needs to read motives
a cord let out
that embellishes twists ensnares
and conquers uncertainty
for a futile while

 

Blue shirt

French ultramarine
buttons button the wrong way
from left to right which is right
from where you are
I wear you on the outside
now that the past has
dropped below the horizon
and the future obliterated
only swelling and breathing in the blue
over chest and stomach
bon voyage my sweet sailorman

 

Camps Bay tidal pool

black aggregate scoured and pocked in cement
types a message
rocks rise and fall like dough
one is a thing – a letter, two a word
and sentences are made with strings of kelp
schools of baby fish hurrying along
no deciphering this language
this encryption in parallel tongue
rough tongues of weed fist roots
long bodies
even the waves and rippling water
sounding out
a rock has softened and sunk
a tiny patch of shell litter
punching well above its size
and not shy to spread everywhere
a cosmos. What do they say
about grains of sand and stars?
rocks weep weed, algae fuzzes stone
debris teased back and forth in the
shallows like this poem
so much said by things
so little turned to sense by our dull minds

 

Comparisonae

what stupid stuff fills my head
like a stuffed cushion
conversations play out
either had or not
comparisonae minor triumphs
mine are better than yours
even your departure in terms of
what was said what I say
to this one or that
grant me this
the wish to blow it clean out
and feel your loss directly
even the bleeding, slicing through me
is preferable to this I carry
social sorry death chat

 

Conversation

catching up on the gossip
eye to eye
you and I
no need for the content
the specifics
merely mimicry
and tongue thrusts
moments of accord
and waiting
we take chances
first me, then you
new sounds
and gummy smiles
that break out of
a theatre of expressions
on your dear face
the sun of my attention

 

Cuts

she made the bed before she made the cuts
put the pills in a row
swallowed them
she put the dog food in the bowl
let out the cat
she turned off the TV to shut out
the virulent news
alternating
she swallowed and wallowed in her tears
before she made the cuts
she wrote
she drained the kefir
she got dressed
she gave up
then started again
time ticked like a dripping tap
then she made the cuts

 

Dragging

 

dragging over                    a riverbed of strewn things
there for forgotten reasons
in uncalculated collisions
survivors on show by mistake
while the unseen that I step upon suddenly
release the scent of hidden multitudes
permeate the house

dragging along                   the routes of habit
along pitted roads that bump the car
from nothing new to nothing new
stale shops masked in air conditioned freshness
trolley ruts in parking lots
an assortment of goods
barely chosen

dragging through                             the chug-chug of thoughts
that accompany the body
a circular track on ground ground down
signals switched on and off as if by remote
from acceptance to denial from detail to the whole
back to the beginning
and round again

 

Dry garden

the leaves hang on
they crackle softly in the wind
the tree that dies every year
green where you scratch through the brown
the surviving goldfish in its small pond
swims round and round
sunshine on the bare sand and yellow grass
like a headache
we wait for the season to change

 

Eva, one month old, awake

the river is her face
quicksilver eyes
wide and wild
the colour of tumbling pebbles
a scrunch and easing
of skin that flows in nanoseconds
over the surprising bone
the flare of a nostril a tiny shell
that sculpts air
momentarily
as a peep escapes more breath than voice
tongue pulsing bobbing in the pink pool
A wobbling bottom-lip!
the stretch of arms and legs
led by pointing fingers, toes
rhymed in perfect miniature
each pinprick of light, colour, shade
each smell, each sound
reflected back to us
through this strange and wonderful
medium
alive

 

Finishing

a novel that stops mid-sentence
a bowl that you glue except for a
couple of slivers that lie in its reconstituted centre
a memoir that leads to the verge
of a trip to Swaziland
the path that winds up in lazy unplaced bricks
you did not press on
satisfied with unspooling process rather than product
that is willed into being
hammered to a conclusion
in the stream of life sensing a certain future
were you fearful of ending things?
a fisherman casting one more time
it is you has been caught
finished off

 

20200222_101743

Green man

the sharp brittle tears
that the sea has coughed up
not worn enough
by waves and tumbling
I collect in a green heap
and shape into a small human form
on a low wall
a marker of your absence
a danger to bare feet

 

High

perched up high
noses – the straight and the dipped – in the air
side by side
we breathed in happiness
on top of piles of junk unsorted, bills haphazardly paid, intermittent meals
difficult family members phoned now and then
doing only enough to keep it rolling
having fun!

 

House arrest

gather up your hedge-skirt
trailing in sticks stuffed with birds
and go tip-toe through the stark streets
to see what you can see
the mind melts in their emptiness
eyes of glass
look out on a small garden
a new skin this, expanded to the periphery
a wave of leaf and scrub
like the metal coat when you drive your car
the world contracted
blaring in the rooms the electronic blather
streaming in a runny light
the heart knocks
each door a valve
the open-shut diastole-systole
rumbling bowels in taps
house arrested

 

House

how blind how long
solid they felt the family
the boys the daily daily
each brick each year
one placed on the other
the edifice of a life lived
now even though it twinkles prettily in my eye
only the house stays
the doors the windows the floors
thick walls stubborn masonry
housing the survivor
my body and its disgusting functions
the rest has proved to be
insubstantial
sluiced out ephemeral
this is the truth
and how come I didn’t know it

 

How

straight at me you look
from a photo of many others
your rubbery face your teeth
the sparks of your eyes
a punch
in the solar plexus
can someone be so alive and dead too?
how? What happened?

 

It

when you think you’ve knocked it on the head
with one thing – banishing the Jewish self-pity -
and allowing only 60 seconds per weep
and asking yourself why you are crying
which might be the same as the above
and chucking out all but the direct responses
and not the ones that come in
the guise of telling someone something
all in your head of course
and dismiss the tears when someone in the flesh
asks how you are as embarrassing and weak
you wake with a physical pain in your belly
that has seeped in overnight from the bottom
unaccompanied by thought or image or memory
each breath burns
this is it at its hideous essence

 

Why your legs why your arms

why your legs
light tread on the floor
springy energetic
covered in whorls of curly electric-charged hair
veins of purple netted over ankle
Charlie Chaplin footprints in the sand
your special mark
make it easy to follow you when lost

why your arms
tufts even on top of knuckles
with that crissy texture
strong fingers
cracked thumbs rubbed in ink
solid hands rest on my shoulders
a rare touch
yet the weight easy to recreate

 

Lies

He’s lying when he says good morning
an overheard comment
brought home and deposited
in the family treasury

 

Rhyme

the coincidence of rhyme
throws together baby and maybe
a good combination if one is being considered
although once here
there is no maybe in a live baby
but why twin dead and fed
or dead and instead?
No good reason that I can see
for no one can die instead of another
however well or badly fed
well maybe if the food is poisoned
and a taster dies instead of the queen
and it’s all part of history
taking you down the garden path
studded with weeds and seeds
or seeds and murderous deeds
rhyme’s random tandems

 

Sorry

the me, me, me having done its usual work
eaten into consciousness
there is a limit of extent
this person with her limitations
can ingest another
and I have reached that limit
memory can embellish
but most of what you were has gone with you
it feels I carry only bare outlines
or infills to be more exact
that I cannot keep every scrap of you, intact
whole, multi sided, alive
alive in me
is a bitter betrayal
I am so sorry, my darling fading man

 

Sum

To say that the baby is a compensation for the loss is like borrowing from the next column because the number you are subtracting is greater than the number above it. It is a sum where the chain of borrowing does not give you a whole outcome. It is mathematics which casts you into the underworld, the place below nought where numbers grow in rows of hyphens in the opposite direction, like poisonous mushrooms, a maddening place where Alice swims in a pool of her own tears. I too am at sea with arithmetic which casts me adrift. No neat answer, no rounding off, nothing adds up.

 

The time of the virus

without calling on the goodly antidepressant in the sky
who passes out sweets wrapped in verse
we are left with this:
how beauty is heightened in the time of the virus
still for a long while
hung on the hedge in the blue-sky gallery
a butterfly exhibits his startling wings
yellow spots exuberantly splattered on fear black
a friend spies a white-faced cat in a tree
we take these sights and bind them around our
heart-knocking selves
we mix our breath into the air of the wide world
to join in with it
to allow its rocking rhythm to soothe us

 

To have lost you

when those words lift off from their meaning
and separate into mere sounds
do I drag them back
or let them float off into the day
to join the clock tick the cat yowl
the key punch the fridge hum
the passing cars?
what good if I pull on the string
do you come back?

 

Twenty twenty

could anyone have plotted it tighter?

a widow sits mourning in her home
waiting for winter to set its dark cold teeth
into her flesh
and the lights have gone off

a virus flashes on every screen
bio hazard suits and empty streets
there’s a baby to protect
and the lights have gone off

the past has made off with the good
the present comes as a dystopian future
living a nightmare
and the lights have gone off

 

Unbearable

just that word
the able disabled
a bear in chains and grizzled
a world undone

 

Hole

when the whole of you went into the hole
that was everything: teeth, foibles, funny mannerisms
the timbre of your voice. Ha! Even the toe jam
between those appendages, the invisible
mites that fed on your eyelashes
and microbes that roamed in your gut
is it my job to throw you bit by bit into the pit
to take you apart
to loosen the threads
that cling to me with stinging cells?

 

Fat and thin

Once fat and round and stuffed
with fat and spice in a casing bulging
a long thin thing has emerged
flung on the soil
empty
a discarded entrail
twitched along by friends’ beaks
barely worth its existence

 

Wishing

wishing not to have to write to remember
paint to see cry to grieve talk to make real
wishing to drop this preposterous need
for audience even admiration
wishing a dignified silence on all fronts
the wedge is deep
it needs no amplification

 

Funny

laughed out loud
remembering something you said
a mere hour later I have forgotten what
fearful that I am losing more and more of you
I wait for it to re-emerge

relief!

after my operation down there
you quipped
“any new features?”

 

 

Change

crossed over the line
dragged over
the tables have turned
we join the groan of humanity
who bury and mourn and carry on
no longer immune
shielded safe blissful
someone was sitting in an empty house
always
as we blithely drove past chatting
cracking sunflower seeds between our teeth

 

The river

gasp of air and down I go
head first
eyes wide
tumbling
knocking against rocks
looming grey in the murk
sunken junk
old pram wheels
a wreck of a kitchen table
a mouth no air
spewing
sliding weeds
searching for teeth, belt, feet
his teeth, his belt, his feet
brown and green dreams
tangle up, tease, release
bleeding ribbons
of red
watching life escape upwards
in strings of silver jewels
being led to the sea?
(as one dead)
up like a cork
ah! this trunk these arms
these white frosted legs
floating on my back
swimmingly
the sun greets me
the trees wave me by

 

In memoriam

she will sprinkle their ashes on the lawn
of their suburban home
because their children
scattered and scatter-brained
don’t know what else to do
church goer that she is
she will sing and add jesus blessings
to proceedings
of this I am sure
for the stubborn old jewish couple
she washed and fed and tended
all prayers are welcome

 

Marriage

bloodless lips stretch
dead eyes twinkle
as I spoon up the dog shit
hose down the ones you described as
blancmange
tackle the heaps of dirty dishes
accruing over more days
than I care to admit
make the bed from time to time
walk the dog alone
you always sighed smiled
as you rolled up your sleeves
over workmanly arms
‘ha, more like 60-40!’
when the 50-50 thing came up
the closest you came to a complaint
now at the crease alone
a long dogged innings
100 to nil

 

In the streets

stick-em-up!
everywhere
masked highwaymen approach
will leashes hold back their dogs?
families play-acting amateur dramatics
a spectacle of spectacles
floating by a car double-wrapped
in transparencies
behind the windscreen
two more over
driver and passenger
(what would you make of it
if you dropped back in?)
a witch is cackling
a wizard is rubbing his hands in glee
the spell they have cast over
this cast of puppets holds
and holds

 

Transubstantiation

up the chimney
rising to the moon
down the plughole
piped through earth and rock
hollow body
stands in house

 

 

Widow

near palindrome
connecting the ‘I’ and the ‘oh’
in increasing shocks
the word is borne on two
sets of wings
long tail trailing, flailing
tempting for some to catch
as it lurches through the veld
but stabs me in the eye
settles on my shoulder
making itself unwantedly home
dumps a weight of dread
you doubled surely not me
the choices dabbed in mercurochrome
on sakabula’s epualettes
I fill its ugliness in forms
because Y’s a crooked letter
and you can’t make it straight

 

Chin up

I lie
life is fine
the grass is green
hours pass in mild and
great distraction
stop with the cries
the melodrama
got two legs two arms
even a brain
bent on a stalk
ticking over
a dish marinated in brine
served up every day
perfectly plausible
when clichés ambush
recognise kneejerk
banish banality
blow your nose
and whistle

 

Family trait

should have, should be, should know
a list, a litany
a wail of stale thoughts

ought to have, ought to be
ought to throw them over my shoulder
or try to…

do, offer, bake, tell me, reach out, say it
step out
of that well quoted zone, phone

a dome topped of never made, never to be made, never came
waiting, a familiar construction
of rage, a familial story

for see my bitter disgruntled father
pickled in sour despair
disappointed

I swing my arm free
my fingers
let fly

 

For a beautiful aunt

in the cage of fine
bones a mirror for company
slimmer of seeds and grain
laid out in a line
counted each day
fearing that glimpse a glimmer
of imperfection that holds you
so you cannot leave
when the door is left open

Who’s a pretty, pretty
who is the fairest of us all?
I pity you
pitted against time

In a nest no great shakes
(no tinsel or flirty baubles)
of wood and leaves and straw
that stick to me when I fly
soot on face from then to now
ducking the lens of glass
the great cage of all eyes
hoping not to ever see what
I carry out

Who’s a pretty, pretty
who is the fairest of us all?
I pity me
pitted against time

 

Cluttered desk

We can stay here and live.
Every morning she went out and gathered
a pair of gloves, clothes peg, used tooth pick
yesterday’s coffee cup, roots and berries and nuts.

The huntsmen rang through the trees, furred
sticky tape, blood sugar strips, a dud phone
alone like this in the great wilderness
the blasts of horns: paper with a chunk cut out.

The king of the country held a great glitter,
ruler, stack of books, a panic button, the barking
of dogs and the merry shouts
a pricker, only too anxious to be there.

Bars of light on a strewn surface.
He begged so much pencils, till slips, wires everywhere
let me be off, debris, to the hunt
I must shut my door for fear.

 

Pomegranate

Slice open
a bleeding heart
with fingers stained
in rose-coloured juice
cracking the thick pulpy
cage a
part
splitting the membranes
that cover up
(pale and tough)
to bring secret
workings to light.

What throbbing insect laid these rows on rows?

Rain down
red coagulations
from their colonies
of tight grinning
fit
by coaxing,
finger nudging at
the mapped, segmented globe.
Into a dish they fall
(splash of dark)
to spoon up
with sour delight.

The mouth knows: turns swollen sweetness into grit

 

Cape Gooseberries

Which Cape? Whose goose?

An airy softness holds up leaves
as if whisked up to float
on weak brittle threads slung out
of the sand, spat out
-as unspectacular as saliva-
a shapeless lot.
Yet the leaves grey-green
tender as cheek-flesh
hold their own
take the stage, dip and dance
reach up, down, left and right
and hidden beneath in the interstices
hanging each by its own
the small goods I search:
purses on strings
blow-up cushions
green-seamed lanterns strung about.
I wait for them to brown.

On the ground below lie the tiniest of stories
what remains
of what has fallen
fairy cages eaten clean, skeleton orbs
pricked out of lace
empty, holding a dollop of air
almost a sound
the faintest tinkle?
a breath pitted against matter.
I retrieve them by convenient stalk
tougher and springier than sight
blow them as straw to tumble
in airy exhaust
or leave them to haunt the site
to whisper to snails and beetles and worms
Sometimes the fruit has survived inside
- a golden ball, intact!-
I conjure up a princess playing in there.

It’s Cape Town and I’m the lucky goose.

It is this fruit sharp, tomatoey and seeded
that is the prize in my mouth
for which I comb through the tangles of green
kissed by a frog and bagged in brown paper
for me, for me

 

Widow’s prerogative

if you’ve got it well then you know and
what’s the use of having an endless
supply press advantage a free
resource a body makes in
copious volumes in this case no
effort from you
yourself only the lacrimal glands
30 gallons a year they
say draining down the nose those
not overflowing running
down the cheek of it for
display water in the main
except maybe your bones
leaching salt adding
frustration to grief stress
hormones which by the way is
absent when you cut onions friends
shy away hear it in the way
sons too please no wailing
wall even dog leaves
the room so you have
buckets at hand
to carry to the ice block in the glass
glass covid drink of the mall
guarded by girls behind plastic with
rubber gloves and spritsers in their hands
ah! the Telkom shop
I shout and swing my bucket
the customers swallow their mouths
and gape

 

Rotten Tomato

Chin over back seat
the boot a spill of tomatoes
memory-green to red. Stopped
outside our house in the street.
My mother, Yudith, under the
shelter of the tipped door
sorting into a box
one for us, thump,
staying,
and one for Ticky, thump,
going

Watching with prescient
watchfulness – even then I know
every division opens
cracks for greed for one more or less,
the quick little adjustments,
till her fingers reach the magnetic one
my nose has already suspected
cracked and oozing
pus drips its seeds
skin sozzled sliding
from foul red lips!

(the smell of vegetable decay from that day on
is anathema. I eat my fruit crisp and unripe.
I can plunge my hands in a trough of worms
but cut out every brown spot on a pear
with margins) and this is the thing:
my disgust is for my mother’s momentary
calculation, as she lifts the hot potato and puts it in
the box,
or not,
our pile,
or Ticky’s?

I cannot remember which.
The crux of the memory has dropped out.
What she should have done:
She should have thrown the rotten tomato into the gutter.
She should have thrown it at my father who left the women to
sort it out.
She should have passed it to me and desensitised me for life.

You-did-it! You-did-it!

 

Pathetic fallacy

The bard himself could
not have done it better.
I am pleased that the
species homo sapiens
as one
bound cloth strips over
their mouths to
bandage their shock.
I am glad that cars
fled from the cities
leaving a deathly hush
and the world
as one
retired behind closed
doors.
We washed our hands
wringing out our skins
till they stung.
We refrained from lift-
ing up babies into the air
from doing the usual
from shopping to pass the time.
We feared every one, everything.
It pleases me no end.

Suffer! for we have lost you
and you were worth it.

 

IMG_0916

Landscape, Robertson

A white bakkie trickles down cheek
to mossy cheek flushed in ochre,
the trail appearing and disappearing between
the hunched hills crowding over the valley.
It lies in scratched repose mouth open,
the bits and pieces of farm structures
and vineyards
like bad dentistry.
The slow throb of peace enters then,
a stain, a wave of brown grey green ink
spreading all along
the brain’s hem.

 

Eva is an octopus

After watching ‘My Octopus Teacher’

How breathtaking each quicksilver response
each complex adjustment from this to that
each attempt to imitate a wave or clap
driving this body that moves as if on its own
in the currents and tides that need
to be harnessed to the will and be connected.
To discover the will in the first place
-intelligence, consciousness, cognition-
amongst the sensual flowerbed that is
this place this time this light these things
when feedback loop cannot be joined
by the noise of hands together
what propels the repeat and repeat?
It is joy, curiosity that moves this little soft machine
an organism like an octopus spreading
tentacles, toes like suckers tasting the air,
arms and fingers mouth-filled with anything
and everything, squirming throughout.
Only an octopus cannot smile.

 

Finished story

Envy the widow
who exhibits her badge
when others wade through untidy inconclusion,
lives with a story brought to its non-spectacular end.
She can lay mental flowers at the site,
dip into the person that was
like a pen in ink

 

Craft

Scoring the clay bank with its keel
I push the small craft into the
water, jump in and, wobbling, start
for a journey solo in a new body
unknown, odd to absorb some
heaving involved sweat and
tears and great effort
but see, it floats, my boat
and like a duck, seems to glide
as time does.

 

A-micro-frog-hunting-we-will-go

a circle of wet dark ringed by city lights
peeping out on the periphery behind trees
we are in it this place hidden from a lifetime
of never seeing what you have roared past
what’s under your feet gumbooted feet sloshing
through reeds and water and grasses
stepping over dead branches and hummocks
pricked out by torches like cold lit fires
throwing up knots of burnished people whose voices
merge with frog calls so loud that the
woosh noises from the highway are held
at bay and by frogs the size of a thumb
nail we are told and dip and sweep our nets
in the green-haired clear brown sweetness
yet clicking stream frogs melodious name as
small and far more ubiquitous is all we scoop
a micro frog is only a hair’s breadth different
so we high five when success is confirmed
to toast the little rubbery fellow in our
illuminated dish a fleeting view so
fine and small it is a matter only of nearly
before he jumps into the great big wet dark
where he resides noisily singing to the
night sky heavy above and which finally
lets go its load and sends us squelching
and lumbering out of his place our boots heavy
accompanied by the squeaking wheelbarrow
call of the sand frog surprising us in
the sodden path medium sized and very
beautiful in a cassock of pebble dash
final blessing on the night

 

Dead words

Call it what it is
loss, lost, passed, passed on,
left, left us, moved on
the euphemisms for simple
dead.
Hear the dread in dead
hear the double d’s dundering
out, a done deal, close to dad
but not. Never to hear, touch, speak,
walk, see, smell. Closed up
like the covers of a book
or two beats of a drum.
A splutter, spittle and over.

 

Another time

I used you up and you
slipped down the plughole.
My hands, unscented, drip
red poppies in the garden.
A white butterfly in the forest
is mistaken for a dog. Twice.
We talk of this and that, my friend.
This the daily daily that repeats. Walking
with the dogs. The petals are strewn
on the grass. Time is used up.

 

Over a year now

A shack for ice fishing
a flimsy structure, ramshackle, in which
I dwell over a deep hole bored
through the white of pain
and loneliness to the
waters metres below
that join me with the oceans
and the grief of the world.
Sunsets and sunrises
bloom in the skies
and flush the snow in colours.
I dip my line and say
“My husband’s late. He’s
not coming.”

 

poppies-2

Poppies

There are two of us in this. Technically one but you know what I mean. What if the sadness has bounced back into him? For what he has missed and does not know he misses? He did not want this. He did not want to be dead. More terrifying is the note of happiness I detect in me. A new chance. New opportunities. The old life was good but it was more and more of the same. I have always been greedy for new. I have always been selfish. I always wanted more. Today I look at a splatter of red poppies that have come up of their own accord in the back garden for the first time ever in the forty years we have lived in this house. Their colour and form sing. I know they are flowers that remember the fallen but I look at their wonderful pods scored with patterned stars and I think of the trips, the adventures their seeds afford the brave ingester. That is the poem.

 

 

Driving to the end

my father waved his renewed driving license
in mottled hands arms resting on his walker no
chipper 92 this a crushed pelvis and dropped
foot an arthritic shoulder and glaucoma to boot
it was a breeze he declared the fools
forwent car insurance all that paperwork
and the expense what for paid up
for a string of bashes in his wake
in parking lots and side streets asking
the carer how to eft sums on a phone
his clumsy fingers could not tap rebuffed
the pleas of his children without a head swivel
took courage to ford every intersection
quipped with his last friend were you driving
between such and such lucky for you
because I was reverted to his careless
cowboy youth the Peruvian they called him
but age ate away the joy of his joyrides
spitting out into the streets of Joburg an
angry sad who cares a damn behind the wheel
may he rest in his motor car

 

White flag

oh the heartlessness of the
drug namer who came up
with Vagifem for this indignity:
a hand in a brown wrinkled glove
hands over the script
to the pharmacist
young
professional
no detection of either sympathy or derision
behind his monitor his smooth movements
as he dispenses
yet you know he knows
that daily you remove a little white flag
capitulation to old age
from between your legs
a scrap of toilet paper
that has shamefully adhered

 

Game show

They gave me the million
even though I did not know
the answer to
the last question: I stumbled on
Does he like being dead?
(He doesn’t say)
What happens after life’s not fair
rather Marilyn Monroe’s
born name or the largest state in the USA
neither of which I know
but I can always ask a friend
wondering  -
What if they don’t hear the phone ring?
What if they are on the toilet?
(What if he had decided it wasn’t his time?)

 

The end

Envy the old person
who refuses to eat and drink
turns to the wall
and waits patiently -or not-
for it to come
of its own accord.
The body is weak and helps.
No such assistance for us.
Against our very will
we are insatiable.
We feel hunger and must eat
an itch asks to be scratched
vanity and must dress
distract boredom hunt down ideas
joy and must laugh or marvel.
The alternative is violent
and horrible. How? With what
energy? To what end?

 

Insubstantial

You fear that you are
insubstantial
of no matter
yet I am telling you
the lighter
the better
for what are we here for
except to jettison
everything we have
we are
to prepare for
leaving?

 

In bad taste

For my friend, Lynne

A board game with chance cards
to pick up a litany of symptoms
go to hospital corners to avoid
unless the rest is irresistible
in those line-drawn squares of hospital beds.
Allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic options
in all the others colour-coded and jolly
the aim to diagnose yourself
before it beats you
within the rules of course
or to contract the worst possible
the more terminal the more valuable
death is not permanent
you can trade it up or down.
The combinations of conditions considerable.
You can ignore the fine print and play
intuitively. It’s your choice.
We guarantee hilarity and satisfaction
making for a lifetime interest
not an impulse buy
beautiful styling to draw in
the reluctant the squeamish.
What should we call it, this game? The sick game?
Here we go? What fun.

 

Porcupine Hills

This landscape is impossible. Rears up
and threatens to engulf or shut you out like
a wall. The analogy is irresistible. There is no
horizontal view and a vertical scroll fails
to define the planes. It resists the work
of the hands – brush and ink and wash.
Words perhaps? Only by lifting up and hovering
in the mind-air can a path be discerned – a
meandering trickle that tracks right left
in. Crosses the river in stepping stones
as small as grains of sand. At the end of this sweet path
your miniscule home where you are, a tiny flame.
This I write with sumac berries from a close bush
offering the writer a pen of sorts and purple ink.
I discard the pips.

 

Absent

So much new
so much I now understand
why ghosts are insubstantial
absence has hollowed them out
left their limbs puny and their faces barely there
left them a hologram of the mind
the old life fleeting memories vague
compared to the itch behind the knee
the whiff of sour breath
the chirp of birds
the present overtakes all
is another way of putting it
Back then I painted the back of him
when he was still alive
his fishing haversack slung on his back
hard not to see the future prefigured
the way the comb creates the parting

 

Words

Words cannot penetrate
the sealed up space you left
heavy and hard
lodged deep
it squeezes against my ribs
then lets go in an expansive flood
bringing relief and no relief.
Thoughts flutter searching for ascent
moths powder smudges on
finger tips left to rub
as ashes onto cheeks.

 

Good looks

ignoring early deaths of beauties
and old people whose flesh has sunk
around misaligned features
I thought his smile would protect him
a salvo, a burst of machine gun fire
- rat-a-tat-tat! -
big teeth blue eye sparks
flashing out from thick rubbery skin
camouflaged and rendered warm brown
fortified ramparts heaped on his face
a stockade of eyebrows
to hold the lines
even the strong hairs patrolling his nostrils
the solid attachment of surprisingly delicate ears
oh, those hands!
I thought that his beauty
even as it morphed into senior form
would keep him safe
how ridiculous is that that that would be so

 

20201209_105953

9 December 2020

for breakfast I picked
tall elongated shafts
of pale green
in fine snipped sleeves
and topped with floppy
sumptuous fried eggs
depriving the gathered bees
- glad to see them so numerous -
of their morning feast
stood up in a yellow jug
in the entrance hall
the scent is sharp
a man’s after-shave
it is a wedding anniversary
for one
to mourn, remember, celebrate

 

Driving

Moving along the same routes we took
in the car you drove that hums and farts and whines
like a spoilt pet, passing the places
we saw or went to, on the same threads of tar,
under the same thin blue sheet of air
that skied us.
Now all has changed and nothing has changed.
Blood feeds my cells along networks I cannot see,
I exchange gases in my lungs, the stranger
hands on the wheel take me out. The world
comes to greet me behind glass
and comes and comes not skipping a beat,
oblivious to grief.

 

Dream

My son told me of his dream
where he was in a bus or van
with his now dead father
- perhaps you were even driving, ma -
he said. We were crossing a
bamboo bridge over a great river and
-what else can you expect?-
a wheel strayed off the weak slats
the bus tipped and in a second we were
suspended over the certainty of
falling, drowning.
Death by dream, a common terror.
A statuesque brown man, a fisherman
appeared from below and with
the power of gleaming dream-muscles set the bus
right, back on track so that we could cross.
Would you like to join them? we asked our own
fisherman and to our surprise he agreed
so to join the cast of big-fish catchers
who were wading in the river intent on their quarry.
My son fetched bait for his father. The
last view of this man we adored
was waist deep in the dreamy water
doing what he loved best
and that is where we will leave him.

 

Good

The algorithm serves up more of the same
a diet of search but never find
eat but never be filled
grief is good this youtube man says
I think of long boiling on the stove
till only a thin crust of salt clings to
the sides of the pot
the essence of your being
take a lick
sometimes good sharp this aloneness
what you need
who you are is what is left
all the kak distilled with the good
peering over the rim
at the bigness of things
unmediated

 

What it’s about

It’s not about legs or shoes, of course -
PG said as he stood before the tangle
of massive hairy tubes and pinned ovals
in pinks and greys and ochre
It’s about finding the push-pull, the pulse,
the up-down, the this way and that, the is and isn’t
and clothing it in the weight of things
It’s about seeing and being blind
about groping with a paint brush in hand
loaded with this thick oozing substance
and defeating its stubborn wilful nature
by borrowing from the world out there
or vice-versa: grabbing a nail, a hair, a door
to teach the paint a thing or two
to teach ME a thing or two
It is a battle that I am allowing to rage through me
between what I know and what still has to be discovered
It is pinning the compromise just so
before moving on to the next one

(PG: Philip Guston 1913 – 1980 )

 

Voyage

You found her young
washed up, lost
and eating sand
brought her through the surf
buoyed her
pulled her off the parental reef
but let her think she set the course
you patched her sails, straightened
her mast, caulked her deck
manned her solo
in her hull you worked
and gave her a crew of two cabin boys
who, being nautical, needed a dunking now and then
the voyage was long
when she sprung a leak, when she yawed and rolled
in storms you nudged her right
you were the lightest of seamen
you dangled a hook
and pulled up supper after supper
steered safely into harbours
never jumped ship
You righted me
and then left

 

What covid did

Saved from tea parties
and being invited because ‘we should’
saved from returning from tea parties
solitarily
saved from pretending life is ok
that everything carries on as normal
stripping away the
extraneous
toughened as a single entity
in a single life a single body
learning solitude and more
solitude till it is no longer a jacket
but the very skin that you
wake up in. Turning soft
to hard, wet to dry.
Teaching a
fundamental
Thank you.

 

Dada world

dog is dada, bird is dada and dada too
you have discovered
the unifying principle that we
adults yearn for: one word that says it all
the other lots and lots we use extraneous
God is dada for some
but I know dada to unleash anarchy amongst artists
and overturn convention
now taught in the flood of other movements
that replaced it
for me simply Peter
my word
my world

 

End to end

Who was it that put their head in the oven
only to find themselves getting out the Zeb
and giving it a good clean?
I hatch a mad plan and start unwinding the hose.
So long!
It hangs onto its curls doesn’t want to let go of its comfortable past
all rolled up and snug
and is punctured as well
- a leak leading to an escape I secretly want? –
and how do you cut a hose?
A spade does not penetrate
and I can’t ask another for help.
End to end. Where into the exhaust
and where into the car?
The entire endeavour speaks
ineptitude. A silly exhaustion.
And a belly laugh. Sitting
on the back seat my
staffie in his black tie attire,
expectantly. Big head in profile.
Waiting to go, adventure in the offing.

 

Insect

There was a part he kept to himself
wisely
that we never reached
could not be turned into words
(even actions)
a secret guarded with a sly smile
a hum
an obstinate himness
a box within a box within a box
or
the opposite altogether:
I pick up a dessicated
insect off the bedroom
carpet. Part dragon fly part flying
cockroach. Browns to golds.
Legs drawn up, wings extravagantly not-there
a shape that is his alone
the insect’s
secret
as impenetrable as my husband

 

In the Land Cruiser

If there is a place I place you
it’s beside me light on the seat
like a flea riding the back of a
beast whispering in its ear
coaxing the big lumbering engine
delicately.
As Africa rushed at us from outside
the grasses parting and closing front and back
the taut sky behind glass releasing
soaring inselbergs, clefts, trees, baobabs, deserts
more and more
slow-dancing
to reveal twists and angles and away
or quick-steps of closer glimpses:
flashes of impenetrable growth
in morse-code of stunning light and dark
every green there is
so many children road-side
that we leave behind
to grow up
once a corpse being carried on a bier
The villages cling to the road.
Puffed up, we barge in and out on families in their tiny homes
as if in some muddled dream.
And yet more land chewed by our giant dusty wheels
to cross bridges over rivers beaten flat and burnished
whose names we roll around in our mouths,
salted liqourice
We are ululated by coconut groves
that stretch from horizon to horizon,
bodies of water lie down at our behest.
Straining up passes and braking gingerly on precipitous downs
every sharp stone on the road delivers a note
that enters our joint body
and melts our bones
day and night
a rhythm of go-go-go never stop

 

Pumpkin shell

( Peter, Peter,
pumpkin eater, had a wife
and couldn’t keep her, put her in
a pumpkin shell and there he
kept her very well )
Not a place, not cement blocks or bricks
not glass and wood
but a song – a love song? – whose refrain I still sing
solo and tunelessly
Peter’s house. Our house. My house.

Or a green boat
(I now anoint you Pumpkin Shell)
(May all who sail in you be safe)
moored, tied to a dull street by a rope on which it tugs
like a live thing.
Birds call it home. Leaves swish its skin.
The wind ruffles it affectionately.
In wild winter storms its crumbling clay roof
turns into a steep sail
the danger of tearing the house out of the ground
by the roots
upending it
is real
yet it stays
its tall chimney mast in need of repairs
yet steady
rocking at its berth.

 

Left-handed

A strategy I use for
unschooled painted marks
- subverts the facile right -
you were in the left zone
from the start.
Yes, unschooled is one way of putting it
but smart. Quirky, authentic, rugged,
humble, pure. I remember the hurdlers.
Hurdlers? Yes. You showed them to me,
your short-hand on scraps of paper,
so you. Marks left.
Hear the strum of the guitar, the buzz of your voice
echoing the crash of waves, the blues
surprising us by playing right handed
or swopping the tennis racquet
to the other hand mid-stroke.
I think right brain as the best
you were and I can possibly be.
You bravely side-stepped the other, the dominant world.
I join in with my brush.

 

Typewriter men

Oh forgive me typewriter men
who took away my Remington
Rand, model from the 50s, brought
it back black skin and
box waxed, keys upstanding.
Forged new parts to solve
the typing on rags. Forgive me.
I am an old lady who talks too much
a lonely soul with a black dog
that you liked so much
talking up a chimney trying
to take you into my world
- see how open friendly interesting alive I am -
(trying to convince myself)
succeeding only in seeing in your eyes
this crazy – made me act even more crazy -
finding me out
opening up a pit underfoot
in seeding suspicion
- of fighting dogs and theft and people in the street -
twisting ugly strands of race
into a perfectly ordinary
- and not so ordinary-
service call-out.

 

Temper

In the very few times you lost it
- WHAM! -
a mug or dish smashed to the floor
and out you’d storm.
You leave me – barefoot -
on cut glass, forever
even when up above my mouth
moves words and my lips stretch
smiles and my body gestures
to make a point
the danger is ever-present.

 

Eight

Got the eights today:
he is greight, he is leight -
the speight of deights
deathday, birthday
God eight him.
Feight?

 

For all the times

For all the times I did not say thank you.
For all the times I told you to make your own bloody tea.
For all the times I did not cook, sweep or clean
and you did.
For all the times you said
your dishes are waiting for you, sighed
and did them anyway.
For all the times I was lazy, spoilt, entitled.
For all the times I pushed you away in the bed.
Guilt, regrets, gratitude, love
all rolled into a muddled ball
unravelling
as it scoots down into the drain

 

Glass

A rare transparency
so that life is seen to run through him
absorbs amplifies vivifies quietly,
naturally.
Without ego.
A nod to the past
little mention of the future
all is present.

 

Ignorance

how few threads my needle picks up before
surfacing
the knot unravels, the stitches
pull out in my wake
not holding the cloth.
There is no garment I wear
science, maths, music, politics
I am stunned by my ignorance
there isn’t a field I have ventured into
where to lie in the grass chew the cud
and daydream is not my default.
Envious of those who incorporate more and more dig
sweat deeper and deeper
a Sisyphean task
of armouring ourselves in knowledge.

 

Parenting

Like bread crumbs through my forest
the algorithm has thrown up
a TED talk on parenting
where a lady on skinny legs tells us
( before taking us to that unfortunate trope
that is her life her agony
a disabled child, awful prognosis)
that science tells us
that if you took your one child and
stuck him with your neighbour on the right
and another with the neighbour on the left
from an early age
THEY WOULD STILL BE WHO THEY ARE!
I give Noah to the right
a family where the father
has the manner of a serial killer
and I give Ben to the left to a wife-beater
the neighbourhood trope
Noah I see going to church on a Sunday in a suit
Ben walking the streets with his dead-eyed beat mother
on inappropriate skinny heels
and I laugh
THEY WOULD STILL BE WHO THEY ARE!

 

Lullaby

While major composers make you work
on the principle that you need to earn
a return
the easy notes that take you home
that spill from Emahoy’s* fingers
Ethiopian folk, honky-tonk in adagio
classical inspired and spare
not averse to leading you to that
soft-fall place repeatedly
generously
recognise that adults
need it too

*Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

 

Holy Stupidities

‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master’
Elizabeth Bishop ‘One Art’

I’d give an arm and a leg. Have them!
Where are you? Come back. (A joke.)
Can’t claw my way up or down. No way.
Give me a sign. Huh! (Ridiculous.) I talk
to you. Who? Praying closed to me
by belief. By no belief in fact. Nothingness
as incomprehensible as heaven, hell.
Purgatory here. Not there, silly. (A tight
circle.) Off with the sound. Better
the score than the lyrics, better
the stories than silence. An arm
and a leg. Amen.

 

Muizenberg

Between saying and doing, planning
and executing, what was
and what is, that’s where
the sea comes in, tongues
of water lapping
at the sand, whispering rumbling
leaving smudged eyelashes
on the sand winking at the sun
I imagined wading in with rocks
in my pockets but find myself
in the waves where you are as light
as I have ever been.
A simple goof.

 

Race

I am allergic to the word race.
Is it because the only one I won was an egg and spoon aged 6
or because I am the pink and white variety
so victory twice over.
The starting line so far apart it is hardly the same race
the rules so skewed a non-event, invisible
to us cresters who can stop to take in the view
a panting marathon to the hordes at the back of the field
of which we are oblivious, mostly
perhaps leaving left-overs on a rock once we have filled our fill.
I am allergic to the word race
because it has sullied my favourite word colour
the whole fabulous gamut of sweet sour bitter pale dark
lexicon I pray to like a god
I am allergic to the word race because of life
competition. First how successful you are at school, then career, then your childrens’ careers, then how young you look, and your health how you are holding up against age until in the end it is merely who survives longest
who crosses the line last. For once the winners are at the back.
I am allergic to the word race because it is the first thing
you see in a stranger’s face before their eyes their teeth
their words and they are branded with it.
I erase race but it does not erase me.

 

Long loan

The hinged paper glued in front of the frontispiece
flying date stamped illegibly by the lady behind the desk
- friendly or officious or both
glasses or not, bun or blunt-cut, no matter – before computers
I took home, blue cloth smoothed over hard cover, gold writ
an unmemorable author, I B Luck or something,
a single word title, a common name
that fell into my hands from the shelf
and that I received as a gift
and had no intention of ever returning
even when the pink cards arrived in the post
even a five– year moratorium announced in forgiving fanfare
Black-listed but blithely unaware
for I never went back for another.
I did not look after it. Fell in the bath a few times.
Morphed into a humble loaf risen on foxy smells
Page 41 stuck to page 42 and more
Over the years the spine cracked and released
pages 1950 to 2019 which I tired of stuffing back in order
and then the notes in the margin in pen! Could they be mine?
Sometimes perused the technical drawings of tools and machines
labelled a and b and c. No effort with the words
but carried it in my bag, a little weighty but no matter.
Short of a paper once I scrawled a message on a semi-blank
chapter end and stuck it under a door knocker
which didn’t matter because I had no intention
of reaching the end. “Phone me when you get this V”
A long loan which I have finally returned.

 

Lemniscate

An eight
on its side, axed.
A figure of eight
on ice executed by a skating lemon.
Born on the eighth died on the eighth.
Is it any wonder that it is the symbol
of infinity?

 

A simple question

A simple question
yes or no
whether I can live without him
or not
the answers yes or no
like a clean cut
lead to cascades of complications
like a spilling out of intestines
from a slit belly
slithery loops
obscene blue and pink
stuff them back in
or let them bleed out
I am tired.

 

Happiness

Let’s write about happiness for
a change, today’s.
More L less V
Omo licks my toes, dog-spittle pedicure
unusual cure for sad feet
given for no reason except love or a smell.
The sun glows up my garden green
and the little wind reminds one that plants are alive
-if it moves, beats, kicks, then it is-
my breath pulling in what it needs and putting out what it doesn’t
there’s a blessing in that. Tick.
The dishes are clean
I can see my grey face in the pot’s side
like at a side-show. Haha
A friend pops in and her eyes and our words bob about
above our masks
on a river of small-talk and big talk until she leaves.
This too is a blessing like being passed a hankie
when you are convulsed in a near-sneeze.
What about the frisson of joy when the
painting momentarily pleases
or imagining people saying good things about it.
Does this count? There’s that dictum if they like it
their opinion can’t be relied on. Trapped.
But today we are not talking of that. Today
we are happy. Back to the sunshine, a flower, a bird, a song.
Please recognise the effort.

 

Enchantment

An enchantment is coming to its end. I look at this house we made and every bit of it reflects our life together. It glitters in my eye. Modest, authentic, quirky, fun. A garden of stones, ears mounted on pillars and hanging bird cages in a beautiful muddle of green. The birds are free but they come anyway. A pond which used to house a frog, then a surviving goldfish, now empty. A black dog. I feel the floors of wood and quarry tile humming through the soles of my bare feet and of course there is the audible hum of the great big fridge we bought, proudly Peter would remind us it came from the American embassy, painted blue then green-gold. There is a glass cabinet stuffed with small treasures that echoes all the glass cabinets in aunties’ houses on their stinkwood feet we ever saw as children but of course is not. No glass ballerinas or toby jugs or figurines of shepherdesses resting on porcelain rocks. No, little drops of loveliness and a little crazy too, myriads of stories of how come. I am going to walk away. The king has died. His queen is getting old and she is starting to lay plans (like once the boy-eggs she laid) for a new life. The mirrors, the few that there are, are covered. The cottage-castle will be breached, overrun, perhaps smashed to the ground, leaving not a romantic ruin but alas space for the brash new that mushroom in our street, my street now. This is what time does and does and does again. It is the end of every story and yet when we are breathing inside it we forget. The queen has cried herself into a new thing and now lifts her head. Potions brought to her by attending wizards have done their work. She will leave this house to time. She will spend the rest of her days in a different sadder enchantment, alone. But she is brave. The words that float unmoored in her mind are changing. Out of nowhere she hears I love my life.

 

Curtains

I put out my cupped hands
for the sprinkle or tumble of words
that fall
depending on the day,
type on a clattering
machine that spits out rows
of letters in pale blood,
scrape my oils to butter
on a round glass
gifted unnamed colours,
smear them against the wall
like that baby in a cot
who shook out her nappy years before.
I sew rings on strips and strips
of cloth I hang from rods,
a spine of sorts. His.
Still he holds me.
It’s curtains for Peter
a widow’s prerogative
a joke in poor taste.

 

Present

“Follow me,” he said and I follow him
to the back
where there is a big spiky seed pod
lying inside
a rat trap next to my hut.
Only when he lifts it in the air
from below
I decipher two pinkish paws and a snout
jigsawed
in the centre.
He, who makes enchantments
but is not God
has pulled it out of the bag
and brought a small hedgehog to me.
I believed them
only from storybooks
Anglo juvenile ones
unaware that a local form is present
even exists, rarely seen
nocturnal.
Perhaps a family dressed in smocks
brooming, chatting, sipping tea
- a fanciful thought -
has taken residence
under the floorboards
while up above
oblivious
in my hut
I sweat it out in words and paint.
And there is more:
when he opens the trap door
those legs extend, angled just so
four legs
of a 50’s coffee table bearing
a load of rubbery spikes – maybe not -
maybe sharp!
but hardly a snout
to see
goes marching out of sight
and straight to its home
under my hut into my heart.

 

Are you? 

Making a meal of it
- Are you? Aren’t you? -
Typical.
The me-me-me-me operating at full force.

Self-indulgent.
Solipsistic.
Get a handle on yourself like a teacup. Lift it to your lips and sip.
Most swallow and live it down.

Making art with it artfully
- Are you? Aren’t you? -
is pornography.
Nothing more that the viewer likes

than a heart-breaking backstory
And yours is not really all that special.
Cashing in.
Opportunistic.

Adding significance
- Are you? Aren’t you? -
to your mildly talented self.
On and on and on.

Go on. Put a cork in your paint-soaked sock.

 

Play

Overcoming stranger fear
you dip into an empty dish
with an empty tablespoon
and pilot it to my mouth
bringing your face up close
arching your tongue and sending it
round and round your lips
wetting the circumference
in exaggerated yum
eyes two blue grinning marbles
watch the spoon
disappear into the fleshy cave
that closes round the offering
in a slurpy trice
then pops out again after a licking
and a rolling of its own
accompanied with the appropriate
sound effects.
The pleasure is so great
that over and over you spoon air
into me.
That there is no morsel
in the interchange
eases the giving.
Were a single pomegranate seed
have wobbled onto that spoon
too much a temptation to overcome
the spoon would hover mid-air
as it tugged on your greed
then quickly be turned 90 degrees
and down the hatch in glee.

 

The dead

Made of air, glass and memory
they have an eternity to leave
their mark or not
these simple beings
- or not
for there are knots here too to untie.
To the living
incarnated in their failing
flesh
their rotting engines
roaring, idling or spluttering
they are nothing as vivid
as the blood spurting through our brains
reddening our sight
infusing our drunken swagger
and peppering our food.
Every day is a surprise
coming anew:
he is dead for all time.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.