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?

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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.

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.

Siblings 1

by Annette Snyckers

Only the two of us,

you were much older —
serious, always studying,
but I knocked on your bedroom door
when I, lonely child,
wanted to play, or talk.

I climbed onto your bed
very early one morning
when you were still wrapped
in Ouma’s eiderdown,
lost in your teenage dreams –
you would not wake up.
I carefully took your eyelids
between my fingertips
and pulled them apart –
oh joy, you were still alive!

But you were not perfect –
shock set in that day I snooped
in your desk drawers – and found
some forgotten orange peels
growing grey-green fur.

The Monster

by Cornelia Rohde

All I ever wanted out of childhood, was to escape
the monster underneath the bed; the terror of its bony
claw dragging me to darkness. The line in the prayer
my mother taught me: “if I should die before I wake,”
only made me think it highly likely I could be dead by dawn.
 

But when I looked out at the cold clear night
and saw the crescent moon, I’d wonder if the deer
slept warm, and if the coons were cozy in their homes.
The burrow of homemade quilts pulled me into sleep;
yet the next night, when standing at my bedroom
doorway, I’d take a running, flying leap.

a taste of banadilla

by Elizabeth Trew

Right now I’ll take you to an orchard
of rose-yellow mangos
 
bunches of lady-finger bananas
clusters of golden pawpaws, tawny litchis
 
we’ll swallow sweetness
supripe, rainwashed
 
stroll among melons
in the pink fall of plums
 
past my mother’s herbs and father’s granadillas –
purple eggs he trained on the vine
 
we’ll find his banana-granadilla hybrid –
the elusive banadilla of my mother’s story
you don’t believe
 
remove its yellow sleeve, taste its black seeds,
its luscious, imagined fruit.

Fragments from a Cottage by the Sea

by Annette Snyckers

1.

Suspended from the roof beams
in the children’s bedroom,
hangs a fairy made of felt and feathers,
a remnant of halcyon holidays long past.
With the house closed up,
the fairy flies through dark days,
her bell’s a little rusted.
Every time I come, I dust her off.
She scares the little ones now.
Neither do they like
the sea horse on the curtains.

2.

There in the basin
I bathed you both
as new-born babies.
I remember how
your tiny, big-bellied bodies
bobbed in the familiar warmth,
how your mute eyes spoke
midnight blue messages,
holding tight to my gaze.

3.

In a cupboard in the cellar,
invaded by more than mould,
is a box of fishing tackle all a-jumble,
twisted hooks and sinkers, trapped memories
of night-fishing expeditions
by the young boys of this house.
Late the lamp returned over the dune,
brought into the kitchen
where, by its steady light,
they slaughtered and consumed
the freshly baked bread .

4.

Digging in a drawer
for thumb tacks and the scissors,
I find puzzle pieces, shells,
self-made cards for Christmas,
drawings of bunnies with long ears,
a witch upon her broom.
On the first morning of the new millennium,
you both climbed into bed with me.
Outside the sea lay silver
so we pretended it was a ship –

all of us so unprepared
for the rough passage ahead.

Synaesthesia

by Annette Snyckers

At six or seven
I would close my eyes
and see them
as I thought everyone else
could see them —
not only in full colour,
but each with its own
character, feeling, mood.
Monday was not really blue,
but rather rosy.
Tuesday was the blue one, pale,
and Wednesday was canary yellow.
Thursday was the green day
and Friday fiery red.
Saturday was purple
and Sunday rather gray.

It would be dishonest to claim
that I could smell them too.