Tuesday, February 23, 2010

For Nathan on his birthday - with close attention to meter


In some dark place,
perhaps beneath the ground,
a hammer thuds
its jarring discord clash

the sound, of work
harsh metal-metal smash,
a livelihood;
days pass beneath the ground.

Iron in fire
sparks hot, and red, then gold.
Now you are big,
now you are strong

gold light,
I wish you well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This one was a prayer for my sister

15 New Bethlehem Street

Eldest son
When you were a boy,
little but getting bigger each day,
Did you watch as your siblings vomited,
sweated, struggled to breathe;
as your mother cowered beneath their blanket screams,
wept from within insomniac night-nets strewn together –
their mucous, urine, sour milk;
as she gasped against airless, pillow stuffing frailty
filling her lungs, trying to call for

your mother
now that you’re grown.
Did you heal sick children, then?
Would you please, hold the baby, now?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Botanic Gardens

For Claudia

Fifty (or so) school children walk by and
smile and

Fifty (or so) school children come back and
fight over being in a photo with
one “umlungu”* on a bench –

Out comes a camera.
I sit awkwardly.
then I put (my bags between my legs and) an arm around a girl who giggles shyly,
there is a roar from the crowd!
and click.

Something funny is going on here;

I just hope the joke’s on me.


umlungu (usually) derogatory term for a white person

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"There's a book inside everyone"

I've just returned from my first ever book launch.

I came home with the novel - semi-autobiographical - to find my dad grew up in the sam
e street as her (Sally-Ann Murray) and caught the trans-berea with her brother. So my dad also has claims to poor-white Umbilo - now for the first time in English literature!

But who will write THE South African Novel? Who will make sense of *all* the many identities and complexities? I propose... A Collaborative! All I need is... a rather large tea m.

Here's a link to info about the book: click the picture. Buy the book off Kalahari.net

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Back Home"

Mildly down about my day, and unwinding with a Zonneblom Merlot on the pavement of a small Italian restaurant at the bottom of Florida Rd, I slipped up. About to tell my folks insignificant (hardly entertaining) anecdotes about failed vegetarianism, and being plied with wine at 40A School's Court, I accidentally begun with the phrase "Back home - "


How to explain that to one's parents? How to convey how much comfort a spongey blue couch or an office chair held together with duck tape can bring at the end of days like these?

As the conversation moved back to which balustrade to choose for the new staircase, I allowed myself to take a walk down Broad Street, lazy in the gentle sun. I stopped at the martyr's cross to tell someone about Latimer and Ridley, confusing them with Cranmer in the process. As I looked at their plaque I thought about their fire and imagined the Radcam all alight, and alive, but not burning. I thought about it all the way past the stone heads of Sheldon and Ian (my startled academic friends made of stone) and continued down Holywell (sidestepping construction and not bothering to wait for green lights). As I walked past the Alternative Tuckshop I glanced to the right, noticing a troop of schoolboys in fancy dress and silly hats, and scanned both sides of the road to make sure there were no friends or acquaintances to greet or meet. Instead I was met by the smell of croissants emanating from the ATT, and glanced up at the man who works by the till on the other side of the glass. He caught my eye and gave me his perfect smile and shy nod; I waved, and kept walking, down past the dept of international development, its tiny but inviting lawn and on past Mansfield College, under the trees now leafy and languid... and here I saw someone I know: a chemist (I forget his name) but I smile and say hi. I kept walking, past the nitrogen tank on the right, recycling bins on the left, past the small red bike, the purple family bike with a baby chair, then up the stairs towards the wall of shiny glass, then a WHOOSH of the automatic doors, sudden cool, the sound of my voice - high and too fast, filling in the uncertain gaps. Then I saw what I suppose I've been looking for: patient, bemused expressions in response to my cacophony of babblings. Out of my periphery vision I saw familiar forms: stooped in white coats, or staring expressionless at flatscreens, and some walking bent but quickly through the turnstiles with small, serious eyes, dehydrated and sunless skin...

And now that I'm writing, I may as well venture down to the tea-table and the glaring bright. Everything is white but for glistening eyes: hazel, green, brown, teal. Amidst the clatter, and my propensity for public silliness, I am suddenly tired and serious... enough escapism for tonight. Goodnight dreamland; it's bedtime.


Monday, August 10, 2009

"Shushlooey" (Hluhluwe) with the gals

"Girl's weekend away" would connote an wholly erroneous impression of how we spent Women's Day. Although I certainly pulled my weight in terms of giggling and frivolous mirth (and thanks to Erica for the wine), for the most part, my team were exercising their abundant gifts of pragmatism and task-focus. No thanks to me, we successfully achieved our objective. A sample pasted below - for the rest, see facebook (I'll put them up as soon as I finish/give up on Villette). If you'll permit my sentimentalising, I'd like to add: I feel could not have found myself with more pleasant company... I even cherished a moment of two quiet (!) Contentment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Blind blunder

My sister-in-law Mandy has always wanted to adopt children. She makes a strong case for why families in South Africa should. It's curious, though, that upon visiting the orphanage to play with some of the kids there, my nephew Asher made his request: "I want a brother like me... a lighty like me." Thinking he meant "laaitie" - a term of endearment for a male who is young or little, my brother pressed the issue. Asher responded by indicating the skin on his face, "not a darky one a lighty one like me!" Fortunately, the crowd of mostly brown-skinned adults laughed generously at the innocent blunder.
I wondered where and how he learnt to tell the difference: if by nature children cling to what is familiar and are hostile to what appears different, or if even at aged 3, he has perceived the differences in our society for brown or pale people...