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.

Grandpa

by Elaine Edwards

When Grandpa came, at break, to school,
smirking children shouted in the playground.
“Lainy,” they said. “Lainy,
your grandfather is here with your SANDWICHES.”

I’d run to Grandpa, so dignified, well-dressed,
in suit and tie, silver head of hair gleaming,
his walking stick a statement, not necessity,
and snatch the packet from his hand, and run away,
his call of “Lainy, Lainy” ringing in my ears.

I see him still, a tall, fit, proud old man,
retired bank manager,
who’d once had clients queuing at his door,
standing alone in the playground.

If I could stop, rewind my life for just one day,
this is what I’d do:
“Grandpa,” I’d say, “thank you for the sandwiches.”
I’d take his hand, show him my classroom,
my friends, my teacher, who’d all be charmed
by his courtesy and grace.
And in the evening, I’d play with his silver-backed hairbrushes,
and listen to his memory
of riding his horse across the Free State plains,
while fending off outlaws
trying to steal the cash
that he was carrying
from Bloemfontein to Clocolan.

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.

Myself

by Angela Prew

The thatch on top is white as snow,
has been for many years,
though long ago it was black and curled.
The face below looks like a fruit
from the apple tree, wrinkled
and somewhat bashed about.
Peering out, through spectacles,
blue eyes, no longer large, survey
the scene. Teeth twinkle white
but, alas, are no longer mine,
Once, long ago, my height drew eyes
as I walked, long-legged, along the street;
now, four inches shorter, sore of feet
I creep, unwatched, from shop to shop.
Yet would I return to those long past years?
No, that girl had so much living to do.
I’m happy as I am.

Shakespeare by Moonlight

   by Michael Keeling

It’s a midsummer’s night.
A chill breeze demands a blanket,
cushioned seats a bonus.
In a corner, stage right,
contemplates the Bard
like Patience on a Monument.

Overhead, stars
above a backdrop of trees.
It’s make-believe
in a theatre of dreams:
our world a world of players,
our dreams the dreams of fantasy

where exotic isle of eccentricity
confuses gender and love
fooling the flattered to don
yellow stockings with crossed garters,
where music be the food of love
and we have excess of it…..

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.

The artist’s house

by Elizabeth Trew

In his naturalist hands his talisman –
a bee trapped in amber, tears
of the sun god Apollo.

In his frames he prints inky tadpoles,
fixes dragonfly wings to watercolours.
Into the first floor he ferries
fallen leaves found in shadowy underbrush,
patterns spring leaves like hands
against rubbled cities.
He singes and seals fallen leaf tones
onto parchment, murals of burnt oaks,
olives, charcoals, plastering his walls
with guttering nutmegs and cold copper leaves.

The apprentice upstairs opens tins –
powdered acrylics, intense coloured lights.
Into her pollens she mixes and stirs, adds
the sky’s tones and borrows from the master downstairs
a handful of charcoals, a few yellow tears.

Onto her walls she maps her city,
into her cauldron dips wide-shouldered brushes
the brilliance of reds, purples, blues.
Windows and doors become colour slabs
boiling light.
Black eyes of her flower heads
scatter eyelids.

She pours out her city’s florescence
spilling through skylight, cascading downstairs,
launching her scripts on his coppery bed.

Stalkers

by Cornelia Rohde

The heron’s keen beak and
the bone-fisherman’s rod poise
like divers before a plunge.
Their feet lift without a ripple,
as stealthily as a bidder raises a finger.
Eager eyes sharply scan
fleet shadows in the draining tide.

The sportsman’s quick arm
flings his fly in a taut arc.
A silvery flash,
translucent as moonlight,
snaps the feathery barb,
fiercely twists, surges,
is caught by the lure.

Legs braced, arms taut, the hunter
pits his wits in pursuit,
steadily reels, yields,
pulls with a sure grip.
Calmly triumphant,
he admires his sleek catch,
wrenches the hook from her mouth,
watches her streak away,
then resumes his slow slide
through the receding tide.

Close by, the heron swoops,
grabbing her prey
as swiftly as a comet flashes,
but she follows no rule
of catch and release.
Her dinner drops
head first down her throat,

bulges and wiggles
along the slender, dark tunnel
of her neck. She wastes
no time savoring her skill.
Her hungry clock set to the tides,
she must snare more
before the flats lie dry.

The poem you are

by Elizabeth Trew

When you are in one of my poems
you are the wild child at my knee
the fearless youth, ebullient, strong
the gentle fugitive who ran away to work on farms
and somersault down glaciers
the prodigal who leaves and returns, leaves and returns
the traveler who drifts from place to place
in search of a dream. But you cannot sleep.

You arrive stricken and lonely at my door
on New Year’s day – barefoot,
for you gave your shoes
to a homeless man on the road.
I wish you stillness in the turning days.
I wish you could see in your darkness
your astonishing light,
the poem you are.