Sweet-Waters In your garden in Sweet-Waters Attended our grandmother, poet, Who, by the blue-sky pool arranged verse recitals Cousins, grandchildren gave voice to, Words from the grand-century Turning the garden English what grew against the Concrete garden fence-walls And held the world out. It was not Chaucer who led my memories back to that place Where the fish tank smelled of ciggies and leather But Austen, whose wicked Mr. Best I knew too well of And too many Whose metre and rhyme placed one foot before the other In searching lines, like we did, On round, dark path-stones Made to look like wood Biting our heels Though ours, in Sweet-Waters, led to no Myrtle grove or chapel queer But instead to coiled hose pipe like a long-dead snake, The dunes of termites and ants And a midden of bleached kayaks and surfboards Like clattering bones. Something sad in her, grand-mother, the reader Who so conducted us in the crisp dewy mornings After beer canisters had had their own time, in the night Something like the search for a window from which to fall Which, in the absence of a second, third, or fourth floor Became her makings of the ground a stage, and the morning air a window To let in the lovely breaths Before her children and their spouses awoke Warren Watch the match-stick cannon A flaring, shooting, copper trinket As I await your father in the driveway The children’s awe and joy At such miniature destruction Like your wonder at our youth And how it was not yours. “Warrey!” the father arrives Howzit greetings The uncertain hand, it runs back up a pale neck And into oily hair, thinking “What have I done To once-smooth skin And soft locks?” How long did your insides burn Until they directed you here, To plead with the sub-urban gods? “It’s just this last time, Brands, Then I’m clean, I swear.” The ensuing silence, the sun overhead Held no reverence But for us, children, The stillness, as we watched Listened Like a vacuum ripped out our souls And placed them somewhere between A faraway star And a cold moon. In one body, then another We felt we knew the both of you well For we had become you. Warren, once you got that R200 Faded eye of a leopard in your pocket You gave the cannon to me And I don’t know where I put it Though I can recall Taking it home in the backseat Of my step-mother’s white Nissan From which, years later, we spoke to you at a red robot You looked at me, like you remembered The cannon, the light of the sun, and what might have been But then our light turned green And once your figure faded behind You were no more My father, hands gripped tight to the steering wheel, silent I know him. He was probably thinking About what might have been The Maidstone Table Talking, chatter around the table Pouring hot drink and pulling With uttered names others to the table Meanwhile the clatter of silver, of wood Like social construction work The scaffolding of which, as seasons pass, Seems never to come down Whispers, scorn across the table One removes their face to be seated For what reason other Than to be hid amongst the others, and not Wishing to be the first revealed, for Would I then be set upon and eaten Like this cooked beast upon the table? More food, drink, placed about the heavy table Just as the light from the window Turns purple-or-blue, taking the Once-white plates and draped cloth with it More decadent pronunciations, now; Treacly notions clinging to the insides of mouths Crusting at the upturned corners of lips So slow and monstrous has the discourse become That nearly is there moss growing upon it Like upon knobby trees, cold in a thicket With their leafy jackets evoking some Distant and un-engineered comfort Asleep before I know it, placed in the other room now Which smelled of its own clean un-usedness And where, in spirits’ hours Some final sounds from the dining room reach me A tapping, and scratching Like efforts to tidy conducted feebly, Or in one’s sleep In the dark my breath feels smooth, and Tastes like the dark varnish of the floor as My feet pull me along it, down the passageway And into the archway From which I stare, across the stagnant lounge, Upon a teacup on the table Set before a pulled-out chair Where a shadow sits which khuvethe Scourge amongst scourges Social arrest Growing in the moisture Brought by rains hoped to cleanse Streets not on fire Not aswarm with outrage But silent For fear of the prowlers And their thunderclap death Their pads on the gravel Crunching all-too-near And their beasts of steel That swallow us whole The wakes of the prowlers Bitter In the dusty places “Ayikh’ into es’zoyenza” Murmured like a plea Beneath eyes that awoke to Hope’s fading so very long ago Not so long ago
About the Author:
Wade Smit is a first-year PhD candidate in the History Access programme at the University of Cape Town. He is also a writer of poetry and fiction in English, Afrikaans, and isiZulu.
Feature image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay