Friday, August 24, 2007

Long time coming

Posted by Simon Halliday | Friday, August 24, 2007 | Category: | 0 comments

These have been a long time coming. As you will see, they are poems on which I have been working. I have also been working on various others, but don’t want to put them up just yet.
Much love to everyone!

The corner of the road version 4
for SH

The corner of the road
was where his house stood
when he was fourteen years old
and his father was the
do-it-yourself man
on the corner
of the road
at the top of
the hill

he learnt to drive on that hill
he bought a licence from
his neighbour, the traffic
officer, the year before
he got his first car

it was a Peugeot 403
painted and re-painted
it wouldn’t start unless parked
at the top of a hill
to run down

the car seats rolled down all the way
so he could lie in his seat and
hold Tracy’s hand as they
shared papsak in the back-road
fields of Stellenbosch
where he studied

and when he was done with it
the car sat at the top of the
road in the corner
where the house was
before his father moved
to Uitenhage and greyed

and the tattoos on his father’s skin
their ripple in muscles on arms and back
had slowed, their colours begun to fade
before when his father stood straighter
when he wasn’t angry or daft
and unable to mourn his dead wife
who everyone had loved more than
the man who drank,
was tattooed, stank.

Now, his father dead,
staring at the block of flats
where his home once stood
at the corner of the road
he points and says

“I lived there once”
he turns and looks down
to the river mouth
that’s moved back and forth
the length of the beach
to where it was when he was fourteen

where the lagoon gathers
a reflection of the moon
and the sparkles in the sea
could be fish or stars

looking up he picks out the stars
he loves in the night sky
“Charlie’s Pot is the real name
of Orion’s Belt” his
father told him once

“and the stars above it
are the steam, the smells of
all Charlie’s memories as
he cooks in his pot.”

Sea Point Sea Front June 2007 version 3

There’s a beach on the
Sea Point sea front
that cuts out of the ocean
an isosceles triangle
a bight of rock and sand.

Eroded walls
pocked pumice
protect the steps
to the rocks below
to the gritted sand.

As a child I’d
descend the stairs
feel the rough bits
of shattered shell
or discarded glass

Rubbed opaque
by sand grains
beneath my feet
as I tumbled my way
to the tidal pool.

I’d stand in soft shallows
in the glitter of ground perlemoen
scared of the seaweed-stained deeps
where my father plunged.

He’d arise from the seaweed beds
as a monster from the dark under spaces
his black hair shaggy and wet,
to leap out, chase me screaming
as I scrambled over the boulders
to the steps, and up beyond the walls.

Love Haiku
detumescence: just
reward for this witness, who
refused your caress

this late night harvest
of kisses from your wet lips
- tastes of dried apples

your lying languor
hair your outspread wings, you perch
possessive falcon

your breasts, scalloped shells
empty into my hands, I
bury them in sand

before departure
lips scamper across my brow
firm eyes-closed adieux

sharp-winged kestrel flight
the heat holds us up, we plunge
to earth-body’s grip

dapples – leaves on snow
your fingers’ cadence across
the skin of my back

rain prattles with roof:
late night lovers’ pillowtalk
rhythmic crescendos

Flying on the foreshore version 2 2007.06.14

My first flights took off
from the incomplete flyovers
by Buitenkant Street.

In his clapped-out BM my dad
would drive us toward
the broken roads
then before the turn
tell my sister and me
to close our eyes

he’d drive faster and faster
tell us we were flying
over Cape Town.

We tried to giggle and
scream at the same time
it was so joyous to fly!

He’d brake to tell us we’d landed
and we could open our eyes.
It was a crash landing back
onto the road, back to traffic.
We’d bounce up and down
on the sprung seats, their tic-tac
leather clinging to our skin.

* * *

Now, new buildings have grown
from the gravel and
concrete in my memories -

steel chasses
shells of towers
still to be built
metal monsters made in
the place I learnt to fly

hotels with fountains
lit from the inside shine
through my lidded eyes
to blind me when I try
to spread my arms
lift off the ground
in dreams where I drive off
the end of the road
to fly over Cape Town.

On the apron version 2 August 1, 2007

There’s a carcass of a cow
caught in the bed of wires
of a sliced up fence nestled
on the apron of grass
beside the highway.

Oh, but it’s not dead. No, it is.
The cow’s calf is crying
as if from dying lungs, but it’s
scabby-recent born, braying
knocking its nose into its

mother that lies cut-up
on the bed of blades
protective razor-wire.
They worry about all kinds
of dangers here: someone

sleeping on their land, foreigners
from beyond the border crazed by hunger
descending on this lot of land
held by reservists gripping rifles
in hog-like, hairy hands.

They look like meerkats on the backs
of their bakkies hopping up and down
at the slightest sight of uitlander kaffirs
asking for passes as though apartheid’s
reinstated on this stretch of land by Beitbridge.

But right now, I’m looking at the cow
her calf nudging her gently, knowing
there’s no more milk in her nipples
except for the red oozing from her chest
where the calf licks, licks then lies down.

South Coast Driving version 2 2007.07.05

It’s night-driving.
The kind where
the road doesn’t exist
beyond a few white hyphens
in the middle of the road.

Where patched grass marks
the receding hairline
of a dark landscape
that’s beyond reach.

Out of sight fires rouge the
lips and cheeks of the low hills
visible in the flames’ distant light.

The moon, caught in the clouds
isn’t so much a circle
as a red sickle of light caught
coming out of a cut
in the night sky, congealed
a scab on a knee.

Shucked version 2 July 2007

You stood in the centre of the room
wearing a tight-fitting green dress.
It was cold and the tiled floor
did nothing to help your shivers

As I undressed you, I saw a mielie
I was peeling, tearing off
tight-woven green fibres to
reveal dimpled paleness beneath

Your dress fell to the floor
in the final shucking
the shrug of your shoulders
released the last clinging strands.

I bit into the flesh of you
as into pale corn
as if your goosebumps were
the dimpled pods of its body.

Afterward, I wrapped you
up once more, a restoration
to unshucked beauty
enclosed in bed sheets.

Bomb Scare version 1 August 2007

Being ten, I was aware
something was awfully wrong
when people began to run
past me after the siren

my brother, just three, scrunched
his little fist in my grip
tighter than before as though
feeling the sound in his limbs.

A woman stopped beside us
to say “You must get outside.
It’s a bomb scare.” I thought
of cartoon bombs with red-

white smiling faces scared of my
hand-in-hand brother and me.
“Get. Out. Side!” It wasn’t
the bombs that were scared.

I picked up my brother, who wouldn’t
couldn’t run, he was heavier
and lighter than ever before
his fists still clenched.

A man shaped like a crowbar
tall, thin, head tilted down
at ninety degrees to speak to us
wheezed “You ok little boy?”

The steps up were high, my
foot kept catching on the lip
and my brother on my hip made
me look like a three-legged dog.

From behind me, my mum ran
up to us in panting concern
her hair in sudden windy disarray -
a vase of fallen flowers

dispersed across the floor.
I felt I’d have to lift her
pick-up-stick carefully
as she, down on her haunches,

looked at us with flit-flit
fearful eyes and “let’s go”
in her hands pulling us up
hefting James, holding me close.

Later, a dog tied to a lamppost that I
scratched behind the ears. We sat
on a park bench. Talked about scared
bombs. Mum hugged us till we got cold.

I remember your fingers version 1 August 2007
for nana

I remember your fingers
as they rummaged
through a jewellery box
to divulge rings, necklaces
and brooches, each pregnant
with stories of finding
and why-I-wore-them.
I recall red and blue biscuit
tins that you opened early
each morning, your fingers
dexterously twisting, prising
open rusty cornered lids
at the lip where you

could slip in your fingers
to get your biscuits for
Tesco tea, and talk to me
in the morning dark about
the thin, grey-stubbled man
who brought you biscuits.

I remember your fingers
most of all clutching to
white bed sheets, your index
finger clamped in white plastic
to monitor your heartbeat
the draining thrum of machines
that kept you momentarily alive

in the moments when you’d sit up
and rub your index finger like
someone rolling dough to ease
arthritic pain and how even then
your fingers were strong and running
through my thick hair as I stood
at the side of the bed and remembered

your fingers with rings of amber
or holding the face of Mary-mother
or you licking off crumbs when no one
but me was watching them. Unlike now.
When all we can watch is your hands.
They clench the white sheets and look
like broken quail’s eggs in their
spotted brown and white, the wrinkles
looking as tiny breaks in the you that held us.

And when, in that final moment
I knew I’d never see you open
anything again, it wasn’t your eyes
out of which your soul left
but out of your fingers as they
loosed their grip on the sheets
and now hold only memories
you’d collected there for me.

Some Tanka
dry grass clasps the hills
my eyes linger on your back
cut rivers of light
from blond hair tied up in knots
melted to glass in the heat

leaves burnt in autumn
flecks of ash freckle your face
black ash landscapes form
in your irises’ blue seas
they float, leave in streams of tears

petals of bursting
bougainvillea settle
on the plaits of light
caressing your back, neck
each a momentary sunrise

footprints in drenched sand
the rain led your every step
with its tiny feet
as the storm recedes it leaves
a map of my loves on the beach