Refuge

by Annette Snyckers

Don’t look away,
don’t sigh,
look at them
they look like you and me.

Trying to pass through Macedonia,
they sit in summer sunshine on the grass,
lie languid, waiting in the shade —
but it is not a picnic.

Don’t look away,
don’t sigh.

They disembark on Greek islands
among ice cream-eating tourists,
but this is no holiday,
the boat trip not for fun.

Look at them,
they look like you and me.

A beloved kitten comes along,
teddy bears and dolls,
but some small hands cannot hold on,
he lies face down on a beach near Bodrum,
washed up in the sand.

Don’t look away,
don’t sigh,
look at them –
the refugees.

They look like you and me.

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.

A Dog, A Dove, A Derelict and Dylan

    by Cornelia Rohde

A guitar player sings Bob Dylan into
the arms of a weeping fig in the park:
Come gather round people wherever you roam
and admit that the waters around you have grown.
 
Striking match after match,
a rheumy woman who sleeps rough
huddles in a mound of grey blanket.
Lord, I ain’t got much more to lose.
 
A man with a beard like sea foam
lightly balances a placid dove he’s
trained to do tricks for children.
I got a bird that whistles. I got a bird that sings.

Alert to hurtling traffic, they wait in a pool
of stillness, her hand on his harness.
He guides her off the curb on trained paws.
I’ll be fine if you just let me follow you down.
 
A white-eye thrills the Waterberry tree;
a cloud feather tickles the pate of Lion’s Head.
Throw my troubles out the door.
I don’t need them anymore.

Well, it ain’t much use to sit and wonder why Babe.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Self-Portrait

by Elizabeth Trew

On the dance floor, I’m full swing.
In galleries, I pause when a painting
speaks to me.
At home, I stand on my head to practise yoga,
stretch all ways to soften hard edges.
Each morning I greet the faithful avocado
that bears hundreds of children a year
in my yard, where white-eyes
red-wing starlings gorge on the vine.
I traverse high mountain fynbos into ravines,
walk hills of the neighbourhood
down to the city,
revisit poems by Neruda, Burnside,
Zagajewski who travels with dew
on a suitcase
to seek all things transformed.
At home I hear women poets:
lyrical Omotoso and Ndlovu, and sisterly
voices who say We are
in our volatile country
freed from an evil.
I listen to the blues of Muddy Waters,
late Beethoven and Schubert’s nocturnes,
singers with big voices: Evora,
spirituals sung by Jessye Norman.
I smell the coffee (Columbian ground) with friends
speak to sons, grandsons on Skype
stroke my husband’s back at night.
Full swing on dance days, artful
and still
no longer young I am drawn to shades of rust.
Burnt orange.

Recuerdos de l’Alhambra

by Michael Keeling

Outside the burning sun
withered the scalp
and tortured the exposed.
Here in the coolness of time
we stood still
listening
to the bubbling rills.

Arched spray
fell from fountains.
Sculptured lions
held the font
in supplication
to water:
symbol of riches.

Echoes of Los Moros
reflected the truth
in the painted azulejos.
Arabic script
traced the Quran.

It was the stuff
of meditation,
the admission of sins;
the holding of hands
and believing
in constant love.

On the road back
we broke our journey,
and heard
a thousand nightingales.

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.

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?