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


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
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
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