Reunion, Durban

Reunion, Durban

(for Gouslaye)

Because there are still [people] whose hearts
Bear the large optimistic burden of freedom and peace…
[T]here is a time of healing coming
Because these [people] of strength are with us.

– Owen Dodson, “For Edwin R. Emtree”

Ships lie three columns thick in the bay:
containers, grey tankers, oil and gas –
our consumption a monomania
congealing into dread disease,
the clots of commerce and commodities
ready to enter the harbour’s heart,
a folly against which we pitch our own.

From the fishermen on the pier
you have earlier magicked
a small green fish
on which we feed for a week
in exquisite folly, in laughter
at night when the ships’ lights flicker
like small, separate settlements
clustered each around a fictive bay
on shores unseen, distant and near.

No one can say with certitude
where you come from:
an everlasting colony,
a small island somewhere
we struggle to triangulate
in the Indian Ocean.

I see you
skin bronzed
like that of a childhood friend.
Your eyes like a green enlivening
the sunned shallows
where the children play.

I see you
hair like a forest of deep shade
where trees grow upwards
and sideways
in corkscrews and curls,
grow back to earth
in the welcome dark,
a sudden caldera at the back of my mind.

Your goatee a well-kept piece of chaos,
a magic garden around your mouth
itself a house
where we can live and eat.

Brush your warm skin against me
take my hand
and tell me again
of the Cirque de Mafate
and its maroon history,
its secret paths
from the transactions of masters.

I see you stride across the sea
bearing from your garden
vanilla, like small divining rods
which find in me sweet, forgotten water
and this small folly I return,
a gift of gentle verse.


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