My Grandmothers’ Hands

by Elizabeth Trew

Grandma Helen’s hands were soft and white
spotted brown from African sun,
hands made to crochet long coloured strips
she’d stitch together – striped covers for family beds.
Hands to carry her work-bag of wool
hands to smooth huge feathered hats
hands to shuffle visiting cards
hands that played an upright piano.
She’d sit at the foot of my bed slowly plying her wool
with her crochet hook and sing sharply
her favourite song to me:
Count your blessings!
Count them one-by-one.

Farmor Karen’s hands were strong and red
used to shovelling Nordic snow,
hands to tend rows of raspberry canes
hands to dig and plant
and harvest potatoes
hands to bake bread, light fires
feed the pig and hold a farmer’s crook
to drive sheep up to their summer pasture.
Hands that tied her headscarf tight.
On a visit to the family seter
I placed fresh flowers upon her grave
and ceremonially watered them.
Family say I am like her.

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.

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.

My Mother’s Journey

by Elizabeth Trew

Her first visit to my father’s country
my mother grips the sides
of my uncle’s boat,
steps out holding my arm,
waves and smiles to the family
at the water’s edge

makes her way
in a swirl of gulls and flaxen children –
high heels in the mud
summer dress fluttering
in the stink of goat and pig and pit-latrine.
A blond horse looms out of a cloud
and the flag of Norway flies
in her honour,
Olaf’s widow from Africa.

In a wooden house of embroidered cloths
and heavy tock of cuckoo clocks
she slowly chews the laid out feast
shut out of language she cannot speak,
begging me to open a window, please.
Her lip trembles at our gifts
sent from Africa –
wooden animals, buckskin shield
and my father’s bar of gold.

 

Wall

by Lise Day

I like these stones
round in my palms
demanding none of my skills
but the placing

Table Mountain sandstone
sun-warm boulders
required only to stay
where they’re put

Low winter sun
on my shoulders
packing a wall
putting down roots

Bright vygie crevices
gecko tanning ledges
rock hopping toddlers
inhabit my wall

Not to keep flowers in
nor peacocks out
just defining my space
is what it’s about.

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.

my house

by Lise Day

We lived on the middle floor
many rooms, airy, comfortable
wallpapered with words
curtained with laughter.
Space for three children
two black dogs
a one-eyed cat
and a husband.

Beneath a trapdoor
is the cellar,
dank and dark,
with room for nasty secrets
to clink in corners.
I hate to descend
the steep steps
to this underworld.

Now I live alone in the loft
open skylights let in sun and stars
to allow poems to float up.
Paint flows from my fingers
daubing bright walls,
the doors unlocked, the stairs broad,
I stand on my patchwork rug
and stretch my arms wide.

Long Tom

by Angela Prew

Long, certainly, six feet five he tells me,
with feet to match: thirteens,
do they make thirteens?
The chunky teen has stretched
into the slim man, returning
home to us each evening
sharing tales of sad derangement,
of people driven manic
living like rats in their handmade shacks.

His spirit of adventure drives him
round this unfamiliar peninsula
climbing Table Mountain, riding
trains to distant corners, unfazed
by stories of assaults,
of attacks for cellphones.
Of murder and mayhem.
Yet underneath his pillow, as I change
his sheets for laundry, I find
a much hugged teddy bear.

My mother’s journey

by Liz Trew

Her first visit to my father’s country
she grips the sides of my uncle’s boat.
He growls and spits like my father did.
She steps out holding my arm
waves and smiles to the family
at the water’s edge

makes her way
in a swirl of gulls and flaxen children
high heels in the mud
summer dress fluttering
in the stink of goat and pig and pit-latrine.
A blond horse looms out of a cloud
and the Norwegian flag flies
in her honour,
Olaf’s widow from Africa.

In a wooden house of embroidered cloths
and heavy tock of cuckoo clocks
she slowly chews the laid out feast
shut out of a language she cannot speak,
begging me to open a window please.
Her lip trembles at our gifts
sent from Africa –
wooden animals, buckskin shield
and my father’s bar of gold.

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.