Yellow Snake Spirit

by Cornelia Rohde

“He is upon the Wheel as we are—a life ascending or descending—very far from deliverance. Great evil must the soul have done that is cast into this shape,” said the Lama to Kim.
Rudyard Kipling, Kim
 

No meat on him, nor in his mouth.
Skin leather-tough, scaly as a turtle.
On his head an old palm hat
Miss Ilma’d plaited out of pity.

No wife nor kin to share
his crooked clapboard house:
privy out back, no pump,
dirt floors and vermin.

His neighbors pinch their noses.
Kids taunt him. His harsh curses
send them scattering. They call
him a curmudgeon, or call him worse.

His watermelons ripen
on his Crown Land plot.
He piles his skiff with weighty fruit,
rows back across the channel.

Makes fast his line; readies to hurl.
One by one, heads smash on the dock
in shattered bleeding shards.
That un’s Ole Pot, that un’s Crazy Boy, that un’s Jack.

The church takes his land for a parking lot.
He hides in the bush in a makeshift hut.
His slingshot drops a bird to eat.
But that bud is a yellow snake.

De bud is a speerit.
De bud sings,
Go carry me home.
So he takes him out.

Go an’ make up yer fire.
Come an’ cook me now.
He done eat. One bone lef.
Go lay on yer mat.

When they come, he is
stiff as a mast, down and dead.
They find a yellow snake
coiled under his bed.

 

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Patterns in the Park

by Michael Keeling

There’s a tiny blind creature
making patterns in the park.
It’s sort of golden coated
and perpetually dark
but its remaining senses
tell it all it needs to know
as it tunnels after insects
and tells rivals where to go.

Don’t trample on its runways
or spear it with a fork
(saw one on the football field
being gobbled by a stork).
Don’t poison it or skin it
to make yourself a coat.
Don’t throw it in the swimming pool
to see if it will float.

No, this tiny blind creature
is
is part of you and me
and all the things around us
that are ecology.
Amblysomus hottentotus
you can call it if you must;
if it strains your epiglottis
call it something you can trust.

For as it aerates the soil
it’s a tiller of the land
and resulting from this toil
are its benefits to man.
Crops grow stronger, grass grows longer,
more and more are fed,
so it’s up to you, give encouragement
to this industrious quadruped.

 

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?

Joyous Awakening

by Michael Keeling

It’s six o’clock
in the morning
Egyptian Geese are in full throttle
It is early summer
sleep is a doze.

Across the globe
in Tasmania
it’s cold, a two-sweater day.
The cockatoos are shivering
waiting for the sun to shine.

Reaching for
the television controls
a scene unfolds
of a shattered
Australian cricket team.

Forget the earthquake
across the water.
Forget the missing Proteas.
Praise those who were there
determined to succeed.

Not just once
but twice
and maybe thrice.
Far away from home
against all odds.

There in Hobart
it’s still a two-sweater day
but there’s a glow
on South African faces
as the result sinks in.

Here the Egyptian Geese are full steam ahead.
Gone are the Tasmanian Devils.
Smiling faces proclaim
another extraordinary victory over Oz.
Let’s turn over and get some more sleep.

Upon the Bridges of London

by Lise Day

Breath-air blooms the frosty night on Westminster Bridge
a child pirouettes her way from Covent Garden to the station
the shimmer of Christmas lights is on the dark water.

On a soft spring morning the great arches of London Bridge
frame the pollarded trees outside Tate Britain
sticky buds fluttering tiny flags of emerald green.

High summer we bounce across the Millenium Bridge
heads full of Tate Modern art towards Saint Peter’s dome
pearlescent in the long level rays of sun.

The great bascule arms of Tower Bridge lift high in a pale sky,
the red buses pause, allowing the passage
of a full rigged yacht on her way to sea.

Now the outgoing tide will drag away the blood of terror.
In the morning the river will rise afresh, wash the city clean
as all that mighty heart is beating still.

Conversation

by Annette Snyckers

Next to the dusty road you stand,
your friendly eyes crinkled
in the midday sun –
you open your mouth;
words clatter out like pebbles
in a fast-flowing stream –
sibilants hiss and splatter,
consonants clap.
I ask the way
and your finger points far
beyond the hills.

I listen,
but I hear only your voice
and the wind in the grass,
I look across the veld
but my eyes cannot follow
the way of your tongue –
I am lost
because I do not
understand what you say –
I am lost
in a land we both love.

Versus

by Elizabeth Trew

How we split in two –
friend or foe against another

as opposing sides in a field –
two armies powered for war
two soccer teams at play

two wrestlers in a ring who circle and dance
like lovers too shy to touch, when the star
drives a fist hard into the belly of the other
spread-eagled and groaning on the floor

or two lovers – like Adam and Eve
playful and naked under their tree
before Eve takes a bite of her crimson apple
and paradise fades

or the sounds of a man and woman falling out of love
fully clothed, caught in a squall
of their courtroom drama,
torn apart.

The Elephant and the Moon

by Cornelia Rohde

Our house has an elephant in every room
made from brass, marble, clay or papier-mâché,
missing one tusk angrily hurled at the moon
who had spied Lord Ganesha fall off his rat
when he leapt to avoid a snake crossing his path.

It made the moon laugh in helpless mirth,
when, stuffed with devotees’ gifts, Ganesha’s
belly burst, strewing sweets all over the earth.
He tucked them all back, then killed the snake
and wrapped it around his massive girth.

The world went dark when the moon was struck
rousing a chorus of pleas from the gods,
until a compromise was reached
for her to wax and wane each month.
When her light is out, Lord Ganesha
gorges on whatever he wants.

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.