The Danger of a Single Story

by Lise Day

Africa is not one huge dusty country
of rolling grasslands and herds of beasts,
populated by tall, thin, starving people
or sad babies with swollen bellies.

African’s cuisine of choice is not
monkey-brain, stuffed-snake-skin.
Every meal not hunted by packs of dogs
or naked tribesman with bow and arrow.

Africa’s health system does not comprise
only throwing of bones by witchdoctors.
It is not just a country rife with Aids and Ebola
genital mutilation and botched circumcisions.

Africa is not to be pitied, or dominated.
It is not merely a land of conflict and corruption.
We have pride and confidence and are not
longing to be saved by a kind white foreigner.

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Leavings

by Elizabeth Trew

Potter
She is crafting something new
out of the clay
on her potter’s wheel –
some ghost of her past
curled into a ball

using water to soften
it ripples its skin in time
with the hum:
a small death of yesterday
taking residence today.

Mother
I remember your meaty breath
on my face
as you bent down with a kiss:
as I lean over to inhale
your last yeasty breaths
to savour, exhale, and kiss the sky.

Child
The women consoled and held her.
“I don’t know where to be!”
a mother cries out in shattered grief.
All she can see
are her tears in a leaden sky.
She will find somewhere
to pave her daughter’s lyrical step
in the rustle of leaves
and sound of bells.

Painter
I will paint my old friend in sombre colours
lying on his bitter green robe of grass
with a harsh white cloth over his face.
And his rooster in radiant shades of cinnabar,
the earth brown, and the bluish-green
rhythm of hills gently receding.

Yes or No?

by Annette Snyckers

Motionless
the tiny frog sits
between the petals of a rose –
I almost missed him
so small and pale
his bulging eyes stare in slits
into this springtime morning –
the only sign of life
just a throbbing heartbeat
at his throat.

Perhaps he’s merely warming up
now that he’s left his tadpole tail
back in the pond –
or perhaps he lingers
enchanted by the fragrance,
the apricot and amber
of his petalled cave.
He seems to be listening inwards.

Frog thoughts take time –
(some days even mine)
will he leap, or will he stay
a Buddha for a day?

The Poetry Lover

by Cornelia Rohde

He’s brought his dog to the poetry evening.
What’s his name? Puppy.
His face crinkles like Bob Dylan’s
with greying tufts of beard.
He listens quietly to the featured poet.
In the after-talk, he argues performance
and written poetry have the same attributes.
He comments that he likes the sibilant sounds
in DH Lawrence’s poem Snake; says it works
well when delivered with spirit and gestures.
With a wry smile, he reads from a slim worn paperback
of lively limericks written by seven-year olds.
Can I get a lift with you?
Dog, backpack, briefcase, square satchel pile in.
He laughs when I ask why he carries all that.
Do you come here often? No, transport is a problem.
Some bus drivers won’t allow dogs. I usually walk.
I smell sweat and think about the drought.
While we carry on the evening’s conversation,
he directs me higher and higher up the mountain,
past moneyed mansions in Higgovale,
until we reach the furthest house line. Here is fine.
After I turn around to head down,
he waves at the edge of the road
away from the upscale doorways.

It is then I think of the homeless
who shelter in the quarry.

Stocking Filler

by Lise Day

When I was a child I read
of this exotic fruit the
tangerine. Golden, fabulous orb,
trapping the sunshine of distant
Eastern lands. In post-war
Europe even an orange was
precious. Peeled and presented
with reverence. But tangerines
existed only in fables. Story-book
children found them deep in
toes of Christmas stockings.

Now I am grown-up, and despite
the attempts to recapture
that old glamour through names
like mandarin and clementine
the tangerine is a mundane fruit,
stripped of all exotica, missile
at the rugby, sold in sacks,
transmuted to a common naartjie.

Freedom

by Liz Trew

leaves a window open
lifts the latch
lets itself out

Freedom travels across boundaries
passes dark hours, rides the tall wave
feels the furnace

Freedom pushes and struggles
cries and sheds blood
arrives different – new

Freedom waits, active and still
undoes and unwinds
looks behind – beyond

Freedom powers its own house
reaches
holds unknown music

Freedom unfreezes its streams
looks afresh
at the face of another

Freedom broods, gives birth
in the blood of itself
is never alone

 

 

 

Thirst

by Annette Snyckers

One warm day follows another
into what we used to call winter.
No rain falls,
dams dry up.

We buy bottled water,
hoard the plastic bottles
in cupboards like treasures –
to be rationed out
in the small blue glasses
I keep for special occasions —
on that inconceivable day
when the taps
spit
only
air.

I also buy a string of glass beads,
cold under my fingers,
pale turqoise
like the ice of a glacier.
I hang them
above the basin.
I touch them
to remind me
of water.

The Week That Was

by Cornelia Rohde

I saw my first corpse today.
I try to visualize her floating
down a river with a tulip
resting on her breast.

I like the compassion of Ram Das’s
words: “When all is said and
done, we’re really just all
walking each other home.”

I practice standing strong
and steady like a tree.
If I slow down the chi
moves more naturally.

When he’s here, I think
how great it would be
to have my own space;
but now, a lacuna.

A fraught poetry session:
a muttering young derelict rips
off her belt, spills Jacques’s wine,
damaging his braille computer.

I must focus on clearing
the detritus of my life.
I think of Kunitz; live
in the layers not in the litter.

It cheers me that everything
that has happened to me
is mine and that I get
to tell it in my own voice.