Refuge

by Annette Snyckers

Don’t look away,
don’t sigh,
look at them
they look like you and me.

Trying to pass through Macedonia,
they sit in summer sunshine on the grass,
lie languid, waiting in the shade —
but it is not a picnic.

Don’t look away,
don’t sigh.

They disembark on Greek islands
among ice cream-eating tourists,
but this is no holiday,
the boat trip not for fun.

Look at them,
they look like you and me.

A beloved kitten comes along,
teddy bears and dolls,
but some small hands cannot hold on,
he lies face down on a beach near Bodrum,
washed up in the sand.

Don’t look away,
don’t sigh,
look at them –
the refugees.

They look like you and me.

Instead

by Pamela Newham

Instead of the bus to Pretoria
I may have taken a tram to town
on that particular Saturday.

Instead of visiting your cousin
you may have gone to see
your soon-to-be-ex girlfriend.

Instead I went to visit my friend Gillian.
Instead you went to visit your cousin
on that particular Saturday.

Instead I saw you in your aunt’s living room
with your khaki eyes and navy whites.

Instead you saw me walk through the door
in my new pink dress and long hair.

Instead of everything else
that could have happened
on that particular Saturday
the nineteen-year-old you
met the eighteen-year-old me.

A Dog, A Dove, A Derelict and Dylan

    by Cornelia Rohde

A guitar player sings Bob Dylan into
the arms of a weeping fig in the park:
Come gather round people wherever you roam
and admit that the waters around you have grown.
 
Striking match after match,
a rheumy woman who sleeps rough
huddles in a mound of grey blanket.
Lord, I ain’t got much more to lose.
 
A man with a beard like sea foam
lightly balances a placid dove he’s
trained to do tricks for children.
I got a bird that whistles. I got a bird that sings.

Alert to hurtling traffic, they wait in a pool
of stillness, her hand on his harness.
He guides her off the curb on trained paws.
I’ll be fine if you just let me follow you down.
 
A white-eye thrills the Waterberry tree;
a cloud feather tickles the pate of Lion’s Head.
Throw my troubles out the door.
I don’t need them anymore.

Well, it ain’t much use to sit and wonder why Babe.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Self-Portrait

by Elizabeth Trew

On the dance floor, I’m full swing.
In galleries, I pause when a painting
speaks to me.
At home, I stand on my head to practise yoga,
stretch all ways to soften hard edges.
Each morning I greet the faithful avocado
that bears hundreds of children a year
in my yard, where white-eyes
red-wing starlings gorge on the vine.
I traverse high mountain fynbos into ravines,
walk hills of the neighbourhood
down to the city,
revisit poems by Neruda, Burnside,
Zagajewski who travels with dew
on a suitcase
to seek all things transformed.
At home I hear women poets:
lyrical Omotoso and Ndlovu, and sisterly
voices who say We are
in our volatile country
freed from an evil.
I listen to the blues of Muddy Waters,
late Beethoven and Schubert’s nocturnes,
singers with big voices: Evora,
spirituals sung by Jessye Norman.
I smell the coffee (Columbian ground) with friends
speak to sons, grandsons on Skype
stroke my husband’s back at night.
Full swing on dance days, artful
and still
no longer young I am drawn to shades of rust.
Burnt orange.

Battle of the Beasts

by Pam Newham

Warthog approaches.
Stops.
Ahead he sees the beast.
Not a familiar predator.
It flaps. It glints.
Warthog stands his ground.
Snorts.
Head down butts
and the beast makes
a clanging sound.
Warthog charges
and the beast attacks.
Warthog flees.
Well, this is a beast of sorts,
I think, as I stoop,
recover the fallen
clothes horse and ponder
Warthog’s Don Quixote moment.

Earth to Sky

by Elizabeth Trew

Earth in her glory scatters blue light
in her changing sky
Earth that gives sky her waters
whose tidal flows heap with her moon
made luminous by night
Earth that joins sky
each day on a ruffled horizon
Earth that stretches each force
of her turning
knows every song, rhythm
each breath, voice of wind
Earth that kicks yellow sand into sky

Sky that touches Earth’s lakes, rivers, oceans
lifting gift waters
knows each watery form and colour –
spectrum haloes, arcs, rainbows
sun-dogs that follow the sun
sky that swirls over grasslands and mountains
bends into lush valleys
with winds that whirl, whistle and keen
over village and city
sky that brings dew to each desert
builds clouds of dark monuments
beats down its rain and rinses Earth clean

Earth in her poverty locked in her dungeon
bleeds battle-scarred
Earth looted besieged
Earth raped forsaken
rainforests taken
land and lakes garbage islands
Earth struggling to breathe
and renew ashy nests

Earth: home

Keys

by Lise Day

I met a man in Paris
a domineering man
who ordered champagne and caviar
to start without consulting me.
Our talk was guarded until
over flambé duck he confided
his hobby: collecting ornate keys
“For keeping in or keeping out?” I asked.
He shrugged his eloquent shoulders
and took me to the Windmill Club
where frothy dancers kicked their can-can legs
buttocks and bosoms flaunted.
I wondered, as we said goodnight
and he walked away hunched
along the rain-wet road,
what sort of man collects
the keys of chastity belts?

Welwitschia

by Lise Day

Ancient wrack of desert ark
sucking from sea-fog that crawls
across hot Namibian sands.
Geckos, skinks, side-winders
shelter beneath her threads of leaves
shredded by a hundred years
of whipping winds.
Barred shadows harbour
brown fire bugs, wasps
that every century
may shuttle pollen
from her swollen cones
to her mate sprawling
a hundred yards away.
Growing slowly, slowly
self-sufficient, enduring
mirabilis.