POEM: The end

BY PETER CLIVE

Do not fear death. Beauty
is a premonition of death.
It shows us the world without us,
and teaches us there is no end,
just a different point of view.

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POEM: Distance

BY NDABENHLE S. MTHEMBU

What does ‘relationship’ mean
A test to see if we relate?
Do I relate to You?
Am I relatable?

What does ‘sex’ mean
A test to see if we are the same sexually?
Do I find You sexy?
Am I sexual?
Am I sexy though?

What does ‘intimacy’ mean?
A test to see if we are close enough to disagree?
Do I find You agreeable?
Am I the distance between us though?

What does ‘love’ mean?
A test to see if we mean anything?
Do I find meaning in You?
Am I meaningful?

Oh, I see.
The only distance between us is You and me.

POEMS by Abbey Khambule

I see you

(for Tshego)

You have my mother’s eyes.
Unassuming.
I see her
in your selfies.
Updates, Posts, Statuses: reshuffling
of your thousand smiles, profiles.
Apple of my eye, ebbing away with
the ever-changing timeline.
In updates of your becoming I wonder
did I miss your new post;
status of your belonging to a new world?
I see you
in her Kodak eyes.
It’s always been you
extending her; extending yourself;
extending the cosmos; reaching,
calling unawares against
my unmaking.

 

Winter in Bophuthatswana

Fire ants fall
from a winter tree

Coppery skeleton army
warring with the cold wind

Like a shepherd boy
I lead one warrior to my dry cold feet

Let him sting the skin between my toes
so I can burst into summer

POEM: Trying Not to Think of Seamus Heaney

BY ANTHONY WILSON

I ease the mower
beneath blackberry stems
and think instead of my mother
who has just called me Angus

Stooping to pick a few of the immense dark
planets I try not to think
of my mother already losing
the word for blackberries

who picked blackberries as a child
and took them home to her mother
who knows blackberries
in three languages

each planet of thought
soft between my thumbs
Trying not to think
of my mother I think of grass

POEM: A House

BY BRUCE MCRAE

A house shaped like a tree.
A house in the form of a stone.
A ship that’s a house.
The river-house.
House on the moon, the dark side,
its porch light on always,
attracting moths and meteors:
something to hope for
when seen from a long distance.

                        *

My house sings beside a ditch.
My house struggles with its conscience.
My house falls up a hill.
It’s where I live;
I go home because I’m not there.
Because I am.
Because I have to be somewhere
Because I have to be.

*

The house in my head
has eyes and legs and lips and a heart.
The mind-house is one room
inside numberless rooms;
a wooden dreamscape,
a child’s nightmare of bricks flying
and doors that won’t open.
There’s something unsayable
under the floorboards.

*

The portable house –
you can take in anywhere
and everywhere.
You can never leave or arrive.
It follows you to school, to work.
It’s hands-free.
It’s no bigger than your mouth.
Just deflate and fold
and you’re on your way.

*

In one house that I lived in
the cat was king and dog a citizen.
In one house the ghosts
took turns frightening themselves.
In another house
the furnace stayed on no matter
what we did or didn’t do.
And the mice were very intelligent –
saints to the roaches’ sinners.

*

The house is on fire, then underwater,
then invisible, then in outer space.
The house is black, then red, then purple.
The house is edgy, divine, sanguine, undone.
It has hair and teeth and principles.
A circle, it thinks it’s a square.
It’s lost its bearings.
Someone suggests: Let’s go there!
But we can’t go there.

*

The house of sod.
The house Bosch built –
doors only on the inside,
the floors up a wall,
its furnishings in people-form.
Set in its ways,
it’s the planet which is shifting.

*

Come in, you’re out.
This is the room God sent you.
Here is where we store the clouds.
That’s the closet that death was born in.
This is the hall we can’t get to.
The light enters here
then gets lost along the way.
The air decides for itself –
because we’re all free-thinkers here.
We all live somewhere else.

*

The house is abandoned now.
It seems to be (but it isn’t)
always late autumn – inside and out.
The penultimate leaf waves farewell.
A torn curtain shudders
in a last-gasp effort
to prove its existence.
The dust is barely disturbed
by the ghost-whisperers –
that handful of lonely spectres
who refuse any notice of eviction.
Like little flames, one by one
by one, they flicker out.
They can’t come to the door right now.
Try again, in the next world.
Knock louder.

POEMS by Jeannie Wallace McKeown

BY JEANNIE WALLACE MCKEOWN

Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs make themselves at home
in my garden.
Strutting, preening, pecking
at the earth
as if it is theirs –
worms, seeds, old fruit.

They know that this territory
is contested;
with alarm they arise, flustered,
glide between trees, calling
urgently to one another
as the cat stalks, forgets, stops to wash.

Settling again, alert and ruffled,
they watch.
It wasn’t always this way, glinting eyes hint.
“When we had teeth,” the birds chirp, the birds coo,
“careless mammal, it was you
who was fleeing from us.”

Melamine Cowboy

The melamine cowboy plate broke.
It lasted longer
than much of the china crockery.
That cowboy lived in our kitchen
for over a decade.

Now he’s in the bin.

But that melamine cowboy
won’t biodegrade.
He’ll ride the landfill express
into all our sunsets.

Should humanity survive
to vacate, he’ll be there
to see silver craft shoot upwards,
people queuing to leave the earth behind
having covered it in plastic straws,
disposable nappies,
single use coffee pods.

With their departure,
perhaps new grass will finally
grow over him.
He’ll ride the deep earth,
content:
substrate cowboy
with a story to tell.

POEM: The First Day of School

BY ADRIAN SLONAKER

Since the labour pains promptly followed
the devouring of a veggie vindaloo,
the baby was named “peppery”
in Esperanto, the lingua franca shared by
her Hungarian panjo and Turkish paĉjo,
and it’s still the only language
six-year-old Pipra can prattle in
to her gepatroj, her hundo or anyone else.
Initially home-schooled after
being bundled off as a baby
to Ameriko from Germanujo
she is now being relegated to
Pleasant Prairie Primary
to learn la anglan lingvon and make friends
since “a child is not a sunflower
and cannot bloom in isolation.”
Yet Pipra’s locked up
in linguistic quarantine
because she can’t comprehend “cloakroom”
or “closet” or even “please,”
and she’s as much of a blinking curiosity
as the toad in the classroom aquarium,
stared at by a lopsided ring of wide-eyed faces
that mock and giggle and spit out confusing strings of
strange nasal words that end with a thud in consonants
because kids are wicked
to the weak and the weird,
and the teacher is too overworked
to notice or care.