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.

Candlemas

by Lise Day

The blessing of the candles second of February

My Danish grandmother knew
if snowdrops were picked
before Candlemas,
to light dark winter rooms
with their fragile glow
pallid as a flake of fallen snow
and scent of a spring long gone,
there would be a death.

In a bleak January
I searched below the hedge
in the dank moss
between the frost-laced leaves
but I could not find
their gentle flames
that might show the way
to an easier end.

Spirit of an African Christmas

by Lise Day

“Hark the herald angels sing”
In our thatched rondavel chapel
voices sing the well-loved carols
music carried by sea-breezes
mingles with flea market jangle
marimba and a hundred wind chimes.

“Underneath the mistletoe”
Our advent wreath is dressed
geranium red, yellow-wood green
blue hydrangea our Christmas rose
hibiscus flare, purple agapanthus
slender dietes our sunlit candles.

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”
Nigerian’s smile flashes white
intricate beadwork tempts the shopper
bright chameleon, turquoise gecko
but in pride of place displayed
beaded reindeer scarlet in the sun.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly”
Shopping malls with gaudy baubles
plastic pine and garish tinsel
suddenly lose their stale appeal
gain a sparkle, luster reflected
in the eyes of delighted child.

“In the East they saw a star”
Far from frozen Northern customs
commercial glitz of Western world
here in the warm and vibrant South
may the message still be manifest
peace, love, goodwill to all mankind.

Sedgefield Shower

by Lise Day

In an old concrete water-tank
tapestry of seasons underfoot,
Kooi-goed of spring poking through
verdant stones. Red berries
of lucky-bean trees squished
between my toes, slippery
russet of autumn at my heels.
Turn the tap, wait, as the water
travels the length of the garden
to steam out of the
copper-green rose, and
sluice the sand and salt from
sun-flushed limbs.
Sombre bul-bul and mousebird
announce my trespass.

Termination of Lease

by Lise Day

I am writing this letter
to notify you (property manager)
of my intention to vacate
your heart, your head, your life
with immediate effect.
I have found that your heart
has become too small
for my accommodation needs.
Your head no longer resembles
the property for which
I signed the lease.
The open spaces which I loved
are now in disrepair,
imbued with anger,
befuddled with drink.
There is a lack of maintenance.
Your life is riddled with
unsavoury characters
who wander in and out at will.
The alarm system is compromised.
I no longer feel safe.
We may schedule a walk-through inspection
to assess damages on both sides.

Wall

by Lise Day

I like these stones
round in my palms
demanding none of my skills
but the placing

Table Mountain sandstone
sun-warm boulders
required only to stay
where they’re put

Low winter sun
on my shoulders
packing a wall
putting down roots

Bright vygie crevices
gecko tanning ledges
rock hopping toddlers
inhabit my wall

Not to keep flowers in
nor peacocks out
just defining my space
is what it’s about.

In Praise of Everyday

by Lise Day

‘What day is it?’ asked Pooh.
‘It’s today’ squeaked Piglet
‘My favourite day’ said Pooh
 
just an ordinary morning
when the mist
slouches through the kloof
loiters in the garden
mingling in wet buchu scent

just a little lunch
sweet basil picked fresh
baby tomatoes
cool white wine from
the vineyard in my road

just a quiet day
when the high drama
life’s frenzy
is safely trapped
between the covers
of my book

just a calm evening
as the sluggish stream
catches the last light
children’s voices distant
butterflies in the dusk

Summer School

by Lise Day

(after Frank O’ Hara)

It is 16.29 in Pretoria a Tuesday
three days after Summer School began
It is 1976 and the green Audi
broke down on a long straight road
so I got here in a tow truck
and I don’t know how I will get home

I am going to lectures and studying
Mtshali’s Sounds of a Cowhide Drum
he is a Black Poet in White South Africa
cows watched where my car broke down
also The Flea by sexy John Donne
the lecturer wrote ‘fuck’ on the board
he saw nuns in the class in wimples
and wanted to get that out of the way.

I am staying with my husband’s bosses’ mother-in-law
in a flat on the top floor.
I get home at four and she asks me to buy a loaf of bread.
I take the lift.
I sit in a corner, sniff tears into my scarf, eat the bread
read Death of a Salesman which is in my handbag
because the lift is stuck.
I hear voices ‘Iemand sit vas in die hysbak’.
‘It’s not iemand it’s me’, I shout
and I need to pee and it’s after four o’clock in Pretoria
when everything stops working.