4 a.m.

by Pamela Newham

Who is she the sleeping me?
I, the conscious one,
covet her oblivious state
where residue of the day
translates into fantasy
where visions swirl and shift
while my obstinate brain
is tormented by the ordinary
and I keep my eyes from
the relentless clock
sole witness to the awake me.

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Fleeting

by Pamela Newham

Where are you?

Where are you tonight?
It’s that show-off moon,
too big, too bright
that brings back
sixties songs
and the smell of cigarettes
and jasmine
and empty glasses
on a wooden table
and chair legs
sinking into evening-damp grass.

 
Then I turn my back on that brazen moon
and, sane again, I do not care where you are.
Where you are tonight.

Back-street Shop

by Pamela Newham

Somewhere in the back streets
we come across a shop, dimly-lit.
We push the beaded curtain aside.

A small girl, pink sandals abandoned
on the floor, watches us warily
as we examine vintage teddy bears

and shelves with paper-thin cups
and hand-bells, tarnished by time.
Mother Mary, framed, gazes down at us.

But the girl in a white lace dress
does not smile. I point to a bear,
ask, “How much is this?”

She shakes her head, looks down
at her discarded sandals.
So we wait for a moment then leave.

What was it? What was it today
that made me think of that shop
its bears, its bells, its sad-eyed child?

Okavango

by Pamela Newham

Lilies like watery stars.
The silent glide of the makoro
down narrow canals
water-weed dank
past frogs,
the size of fingernails,
clinging to slim reeds.
Papyrus high on both sides.
The crack and crunch of hippos
on the river bank.
In a clearing a lion, so lazy,
he can barely lift his head.

Rage

by Pamela Newham

We have written a lot about road rage:
Passing on solid white lines
Zig-zagging across highways
Too slow in the fast lane
Jumping queues
Angry hooter blasts
The flash of the rigid middle digit
All leading to smashed windows, swearing and worse.

But we have not said enough about packaging rage.
Unbreakable items in layers of bubble wrap
Screeds of sticky tape
Staples stabbing flesh
Plastic ties refusing to let go
Child-friendly-adult-hating pill containers
All leading to ripped nails, swearing and worse.

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.

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.

Elephants at my Door

by Pam Newham

They’ve been here again while we were away
leaving plenty of evidence behind.
The young umbrella thorn, no taller than I,
has been leaned on and its spindly trunk split open,
white like bare bone in a shattered leg.
The tip of a tusk has carved elegant shapes
onto the bark of the bush willow tree.
A great foot has stepped forward or back
and pulverised the bird bath.
Neat rounds of dung lie camouflaged
among the rocks; broken branches
carelessly tossed to the ground.

Such destructive beasts these and yet,
as I run my hand over the bark where
their trunks have been, I want to believe
they chose to come here.
And although I know that’s not so
and although they are long gone,
I want to believe I can still smell their scent
as they move on their majestic way.

Putting it into perspective

by Pam Newham

He wants to know why his parents have appeared
in a documentary on TV.
His mother says: “Because our family is a bit different
to other families.”
He looks puzzled. “But why are we different?”
“Well, why do you think,” she asks.
He pauses. “Oh, I know. It’s because we live on a mountain
and have a tortoise for a pet.”

And his two mothers, one white, one brown
look at each other and laugh.