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.

Pistachios

by Pamela Newham

Cyprus airport one a.m.
Two women waiting for a flight.
Around us suntanned holidaymakers
stretch out on metal benches
as a tinny voice announces again
our flight has been delayed.

Two dark-eyed boys with stubble chins
want to buy us red wine.
We say no but they tell us
they are Iranians no one wants
and have been in transit for days.
So we let them buy us wine
and when they come back
they pile pistachios on the table.

They tell us they are taxi drivers
and we pretend to believe
their wild tales and they
pretend to be shocked
when they hear
they are half our age.
We laugh and flirt tasting
the saltiness of the pistachios
and the roughness of the wine
until finally they call our flight
and we hug like old friends
or maybe lovers.

An unexpected adventure
so many years ago and yet
whenever I slide my nail between
the slick shell and crack open
a pistachio I recall a hot night
and boys nobody wanted.

 

 

The Disease to Please

by Pamela Newham

A psychobabble phrase
that slips off the tongue with ease.
Saying yes when it should be no.
Stay a while when you wish they’d go.
Saying of course I’ll be there
when you really don’t care.
So, from now on, I’m going to change.
Have to check my diary, I’ll say, and
no way, I’m far too busy today.
I’ll be brisk and business-like,
forthright and true…

But only if that’s all right with you.

Walking in the wind

by Pamela Newham

The wind tugs at their hair and teases their clothes
but they do not care for they are talking and talking.

What are they discussing?
Probably not local elections or postal strikes
or the high cost of cauliflowers.

Now and then they stop but do not look
at the white-tufted waves or the mountains
or the squabbling seagulls
instead they stand for a moment, laughing.

Then they carry on walking
Talking and talking as the wind
whisks their secrets out to sea.

Attraction

by Pam Newham

An Autumn-crisp morning.
In a room of like-minded people
I see a man’s face.
His eyes are on me.
I look away. Look back.
I cannot deny there is a frisson.
His smile says,
Come over.
His eyes say,
You know you want to.
Why should I trust him?
But I do.
I stride across,
shamelessly pick him up,
hold him close and
give a satisfied smile
as I brazenly take
John Irving
to the till.

Old Girls

by Pam Newham

 We stare into each other’s eyes.
The old warthog and me.
Her bristles have thinned.
Her high-heel hoofs chipped.
Her tusks ground down.
She’s a bit battered.
A bit worn.
Alone now.
No babies to tug
her drooping teats.
Pretty near the end, I’d say.
Perhaps a leopard’s coup de grace?
More likely a slow wasting away.
Her eyes say, that’s how it is, old girl,
that’s how it is for us all.