February moon: Cape Town
The heavy heat today.
At night, voices cool down
but my house holds the sun.
On my table, poems
are coasters: whisky rings
blur and blot the pain.
You’ve left. Seared an ocean.
Left for your small home town
Savannah, Georgia; left me
your one-cup coffee filter,
books of poetry, the aftertaste
of talk: Che Guevara, the IMF
how my modernism limits love.
Now I eat from your plate
hold its blue to shore up my day
and rummage for my particulars
budget, salary, tax form
in a bin filled with plastic,
ash, mango skin and condoms.
My land’s an expanse of rubble
and slogans, charters, accords.
Handshakes commit chattering guns
to obscenity and soap operas.
Every day, violence kitsches itself
onto front pages while, caught
in the sublime, the stars twinkle
and our minds race to countless edges.
The radicals drive limousines,
are driven in them, and host dinners
to court capital, promising restitution.
But we’ve seen the sharkskin suit
and the flashing smile, as we become
more and yet more, still, a people
of squatters, building zinc
and cardboard hopes over the words
that scratch at our reformed lives:
heroes bought by your country’s dollars,
by gold and dumdum; heroes leaving
our shacks to rickety revolutions.
We all stumble on favourite poets,
by chance come across their books
scattered in someone’s wake
on worn carpets, or hung from eyehooks.
And within a week, we make them our own.
I dream in poems,
small, short quatrains.
I dream of waking
and writing them down.
I wake and lose them
like leaving and suicide
like wiping dry
the blade of the knife.
At night, bougainvillaea leap at me.
Moon waning fast, there’s no colour.
But I know, by feel and voice, that flower
slashing through a hoped-for night out
and caging me between the buck and warp
of language and the real: how yesterday
the moon hung, in a word, hard-boiled
above phone lines taut as an egg-slicer
We lose again, dusk purling
clouds over Table Mountain;
lose again, though Venus is
twice brighter than ten years ago.
Bam bam bam. LKJ’s bass
pounds anger into the gloom,
clutches the gut. Martin mulls
the cannabis, rolls the bone.
Willie smiles and twitches
to the reggae. Amanda fires
and Martin lights the joint
inhales, and lifts his thumbs:
Okay. But I, I dissolve outwards,
wander the sky. And wait for you
to come to my ever-hungry land.
from This Carting Life (© Kwela Books/Snailpress/Rustum Kozain)