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.

Daddy’s Helper

by Annette Snyckers

Your hands on wood,
(tongue between your lips)
and I — only a girl, not the son
who should be helping —
I sat and watched,
sometimes was allowed
to hold the end of the measuring tape –
I could not take my eyes off your hands,
how they caressed the wood,
held the paintbrush, concentration
furrowed on your forehead.

Because you believed
women’s hands should not
handle implements,
tools and paintbrushes
(we would mess it up),
you never taught me.
I watched, and learned
to use my small hands
only later, when they grew
into a woman’s hands,
my eyes to measure things
to within half a millimetre,
to plumb as straight and true
as a level.

I paint in translucent layers
on canvas
the way you painted
walls and cupboards;
my hands get dirty
and I inhale, thrilled,
the smell of turpentine.
I have disobeyed you –

but I know that now,
you would not be angry.

Nevertheless

by Annette Snyckers

Yesterday
the land was thirsty and impatient,
it lay belly-up and waiting.
Today
the pond is brim-full,
fish gulp at the fresh sweetness,
birds sing of the rain
and of bird-news
which I do not understand,
but I believe it must be better
than other news
oozing from our ailing land.

My doors are thrown wide open,
I sit, flooded by the sun —
humming my own strange song,
which I understand no more
than those sung by feathered ones.

For in times of hatred
fluttering on flagpoles,
I cannot imagine why —
but it really does not matter,
today the birds and I,
today we sing.

Lament for the Stones

by Annette Snyckers   

 
No longer sure-footed
after my father’s death,
some days I was brought
to tears
for the smooth round rocks
lying motionless
in the riverbed.

Over millennia they kept still,
had their edges knocked off,
until scoured sleek,
they lie ovoid, oblong, squat
and suffer in stoic silence
the floods and droughts.

Perhaps they delight in the lizards,
the leguan,
the dragonflies,
the dainty steps
of the Klipspringer.

The Smell of Summer

by Annette Snyckers

Summer climbs steadily to the solstice,
flings its fragrance on the breeze.
Draped under the privet bush,
a lacy veil of small white flowers
wafts the smell of childhood,
shakes memories from that dusty cache –
images of tricycles and boy cousins,
of bubble bathing suits and bees,
of holidays and Christmas coming
and the majestic mulberry tree,
a feast of purple mouths and teeth
and suddenly, resurgent,
the sickening smell
of stinkbug
on a perfect berry.

Stopover

by Annette Snyckers

Like carton cut-outs, row upon row,
the mountains shift past the car window –
bruise-blue, grey-blue,
to the palest shade of sky –
we travel through a land bereft of rain
where poplars on farms
flutter gold and amber
and palm trees lean in the wind –
tall and tolerant, they wave
black shadows over solitary white houses.
The dirt road sails like a snake through dips
and over ridges of the foothills —
far ahead a car drags a streamer of dust
through the afternoon heat.

Four hours from the city
my mind leaves behind the clutter,
content to hum in thinking
of nothing much —
and how tonight I’ll sleep in a place
where stars splutter silver light
over a black velvet night
and where the church bell strikes —
every quarter hour
that remains of my life.

Things I used to want

by Annette Snyckers

Some things I used to want
no longer thrill me —
like a clear pond with Koi flashing
in liquid shattered sun —
the fish are fat now and need
a sitter when we leave.

Or Egyptian geese,
a breeding pair,
in colour-coded feather jackets –
but here in great numbers,
they squawk and hoot
when l want to sleep.

Things I never dreamed of wanting
came uninvited –
a bushbaby with velvet coat,
who surveyed the dark
with big black mirror-eyes,
touched my face with clammy fingers
and fleeced my hair for fleas each night.

Some things I used to want
I do still want –
the animals who grin or purr
when I come home,
wag their tails or lick my hand –

Although you do nothing of the kind,
I do still want you too.

Siblings 2

by Annette Snyckers

At your wedding so long ago
in the grey stone church —
your mother-in-law stiff-upper-lipped,
our mother beaming in blue,
I was nervous,
for I had duties as flower girl
to my big sister,
had to guide your long satin train safely
around sharp bends in the aisle —
for a faint-making moment
it caught on a splinter.
 
I look at the wedding photo on your wall
and see my half-hearted smile;
my dress did not fit right.
Or was I afraid of losing you?
 
You were always way ahead of me,
but your steps have become slow,
shuffling towards that place
you do not want to go –
I find myself right behind you now,
still worried about splinters
on the last treacherous stretch.

Siblings 1

by Annette Snyckers

Only the two of us,

you were much older —
serious, always studying,
but I knocked on your bedroom door
when I, lonely child,
wanted to play, or talk.

I climbed onto your bed
very early one morning
when you were still wrapped
in Ouma’s eiderdown,
lost in your teenage dreams –
you would not wake up.
I carefully took your eyelids
between my fingertips
and pulled them apart –
oh joy, you were still alive!

But you were not perfect –
shock set in that day I snooped
in your desk drawers – and found
some forgotten orange peels
growing grey-green fur.