The Spinney Retirement Village

by Lise Day

Transplanted to the Spinney
I will have to become a tree.
First I favour the Willow
slender, bending in the breeze
but it’s too late for slender,
perhaps wise to be less pliable
to withstand the thorny thicket.
A Silver Birch attracts, poetic,
trunk white as age-streaked hair
leaves that flutter in late light.
I hope not to be a Crab-apple
mouth all puckered and bitter.
There’s the Weeping Bride’s Bush
but all that’s behind me now.
I love the Jacaranda tree
fronds bent with purple blooms,
constantly reminding students
that it is time to study now,
fitting for a retired teacher,
but due to be rooted out,
not indigenous enough.
I am more indigenous than exotic
so reject the unsmiling Wattles,
with turkey chins all drooping.
I will try not to be a Cross-berry
when nearby brambles prickle.
Cannot be a Common Cabbage tree
or unpleasant Hook Thorn
scratchy, catching on trivial things.
I think I’ll settle for the River Indigo
multi-stemmed, graceful,
pink flowers, soft green leaves
even in times of drought,
adaptable, easily transplanted.


Monkey Puzzle

by Pamela Newham

While your fellows press their small faces
with all-too-human eyes against the glass
you hang back,
like a teenager in a dress her mother made.
Then, unable to resist, you swing onto the deck
and that’s when I see and understand why
you are shy.

Some simian skin disease?
A pot of unwatched paint?
A spray to chase you away?

I find, these days, there are few things
that astonish and amaze
But you did it,
high in a bushveld tree
(the absurdity)
one small pink monkey.


by Michael Keeling

It was like swimming in silk,
warm, cloying and relaxing.
Shampoo lathered in the soft water
as our guide made the most of his ablutions.

We canoed to a quiet stretch of river
where a thin nylon line with baited hook
served us as fishing tackle.

An immediate swirl denoted a bite
and, within minutes, we had six fish
proudly displayed.

Puttering upstream to a floating house
We were welcomed by the owner.
Felicitations elicited the promise of a meal.

Fried, with a sprinkling of lemon juice,
they were delicious.
Whoever would have guessed
we had been swimming with piranhas?


Te Deum

by Cornelia Rohde

In the growing light,
wild ginger‘s sweet breath
scents banks of canals
flowing through green rice fields
in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley.

The slow ascent up rocky trails becomes
too steep for half-starved horses.
My mare sags and folds.
You gently coax her up,
walk her with a lead;
offer me your sturdier mount.

We stop for water
in a playful stream;
peel our clothes off in the heat.
You chase me laughing
through beds of zesty watercress.
The gleam in your eyes
warms me well beyond
the blaze of the sun.

The path stretches long through hills
rising blue in back of blue.
From mountains beyond mountains
rises a swelling te deum,
camphor of praise-song to guide us.
We reach a small stone sanctuary
in the half-light of vespers.
Te deum laudamus lifts the sky.

In the quiet night of crisp stars,
the parish curé
offers fresh-baked bread,
handmade cheese, wine,
his clear-eyed faith,
a simple bed for rest.


by Annette Snyckers

That holiday
when we camped
almost on the beach –
the lazy afternoons
drooped from the Milkwoods.
My parents slept and I,
in my bubble bathing suit,
I challenged the waves –
over and over
walls of liquid glass
rose up and I stood
until the very last moment,
just before
the wave would curl over
and crash down,
then I turned,
and ran as fast as I could
on spindly legs
like a sandpiper.

The thrill, the need
to outrun a living force
licking my heels –
sea smell,
gull cries,
my heart a hammer.

When my parents woke up,
we had tea and rusks.
I never told them
how fast I could run.


by Elizabeth Trew

They found you alive in the morgue,
scars on your tough, battered face
from your head-on crash

re-set nose, cheekbone and jaw
stitched back your skin
your head held in place by a cage

Sis! somebody said to you in your cage
Go for plastic surgery, your mother begged

choosing instead a far country
to mend post-office mailbags  alone
A blackbird sang to me all summer long, you said

Back home sunburn imprinted on skin
mending mailbags again in the courtyard jail

when I caught your first tear behind soundless glass
in the visitor’s room, our country apart in a cage

Writing to me from your cell
I dreamed of your tear and your head

tough builder’s hands, the flight of birds
song of your chest, sheen of your back

dovetailing raisin-sweet salt,
decades mending skin


by Elizabeth Trew

June – my small sister, born in her month of rain
and in her second year
her month of death.

My mother never spoke of June.
Pain and death, she’d say, does not exist.
No doctor crossed her path.

June became a sunny picture done in coloured chalks.
She sits in a daisy field smiling out with dimpled cheeks.
She holds a flower between the rains of June.

I know a little about her death,
how barbed wire had snagged her flesh
and gushed its poison through her blood

turning her too deeply green.
I’d overhear dark mutterings from aunts
how a doctor could have saved her life.

all the flowers in my mother’s garden
bowed their heads as rainfall filled the sky that day
and soaked her earth with blood

I never knew what her Bible said,
know nothing about her silent grief.
Enough that I was born replacing June.

The Way Things Are

by Lise Day

No, the potty train does not stop at this station.
Your Rosie doll’s hair will not grow back.
We cannot hand your sister in to the library
when the new baby arrives home in the car.
I am your mother and that is the way things are.

I say no because I say so and that is that.
White milk does not come from white cows,
nor chocolate milk from brown cows.
You cannot catch a moonbeam nor a falling star.
I am your mother and that is the way things are

Lmno is not one letter in the alphabet song.
However much you talk you will never run out of words.
Waves are not made by wallowing whales.
Sharks will not leap from sea to beach, it is too far.
I am your mother and that is the way things are

Even when you are ten you will not be as old as your sister.
Chick peas have nothing to do with chicks on the loo.
Wild coast tortoises cross the road for excitement.
Your spotty kitten will never grow to be a jaguar.
I am your mother and that is the way things are

The queen does not wear her crown all day.
Buzz saws are not bears snoring in the woods.
Spanish dancers who stamp and fling dresses
are not angry with the man on the guitar.
I am your mother and that is the way things are now.

There is no cloud it is just another computer.
Cookies and Rasberry pi and spam
Worms, zips and dongles are inside your ram.
You need a debugger to defrag you somehow,
I am your son and that’s the way things are now.


by Annette Snyckers

On summer afternoons
when flies were lazy
and the hours lame,
I was supposed to lie down,
rest in my room —
when my mother took a nap;
all I wanted was out.

In the passage
creaking floorboards
lay waiting
to snap at my heels,
but I held my breath,
stepped over them,
and only exhaled
when I reached
the dining room.

Out, out,
over the fence
into the veld —
crushed grass
and khaki bush,
turtle dove
and hoepoe,

budding my wings.

Suicide with Dogs

by Pamela Newham

How quiet you must have been as you locked
the bedroom door behind you.
How happy they must have been when you
walked into the kitchen.
Thought it was time for a walk
as you dragged their tatty blanket
and laid it on the backseat,
put in place the flexible hose,
climbed in with them.
Closed the door.

Did you need their trusting eyes
to get you through it?
Did you take them because you knew
he’d miss them more?