• BLACKJACK

    Blackjack n. The spiky, adhesive seed of the weed Bidens pilosa
    which clings firmly.



    He loved her words which caught
    him so much like blackjacks
    that he wanted to undress
    her because she seemed such
    an attractive person and so
    different from his wife.
    He wooed and wooed with
    all his exercise till she
    succumbed in a bed of
    country veld where
    blackjacks hooked onto
    her unwanted underwear and
    that was very nice but
    he missed her words and
    her body was as smooth as
    his wife's. So very tenderly
    he removed from her sweater
    the blackjacks one by one
    and sent her back to her writing
    board where she pinned
    her blanket-stabber weeds
    one by one and bit
    back the cat-yowl sting.... more »

  • FALLING FEELING

    I came to our first meeting
    with a falling feeling,
    feeling of falling and fleeing.
    Meeting you deeply on the way
    down you said, "I don't want to say
    I'm falling in love with you."
    I said, "Oh do, please, do do do."
    So you said it - oh you said it -
    so deeply and it sounded true:
    "I'm falling in love with you."

    I came to our first true meeting
    with a deeply falling feeling,
    but I think you just caught me
    reeling. You just reeled me in.... more »

  • GREEN HOUSE

    I live in a large green house
    with my daughter and three dogs.
    Also here you may find sister,
    certainly brother,
    and mother (grand).

    No husband,
    and no cat.

    People sometimes ask about the cat.... more »

  • REPAIR

    Two friends of mine, hardly blood brothers,
    have this in common: that they lost their mothers
    to heaven or a better man at the tender age of four -
    the same age as Beatrice when they met us.
    Like all my friends they brought her treats,
    teased her sweetly or applauded her feats
    so that I thought, how good - they are healed -
    they are here with us grown ups on the other side.
    Until I noticed how when Beatrice cried
    the great racking sobs of a child who is tired,
    or defeated, or strung out like straining wire,
    these friends followed when I carried her to bed,
    stayed for the story, the caressing of the head,
    waited for the bottle, the curtains drawn across
    on a room full of children and their irreparable loss.... more »

  • WAYS OF KEEPING

    I have kept my love for you
    like an unloved dog,
    chained up in the yard.

    You have kept your love for me
    pressed between
    pages of a well-loved book.

    With a diamond, secretly, you have
    etched me into a glass pane,
    showing me my hiding place
    with a cupped hand.

    I could teach the world to woo
    but teach me to keep as you do.... more »

  • RULE THREE THOUSAND AND TEN

    I've forgotten a lot of the rules,
    like how you get to the square on the hypotenuse
    (and what you do once you're there)
    and how to do long division
    and getting percentages on a calculator.
    Netball draws a blank.
    Don't even know the right way to lace shoes,
    Or the bowl to use when whipping chocolate mousse.
    Why one is not supposed to clink glasses
    or say pleased to meet you.
    What to say when someone dies
    or to do if they do.
    And when to say "owing" and when to say "due"
    (not that I ever have good reason to). What has gone away?
    The whole thing about the past tense in French novels.
    The meaning of zigzag yellow road markings.
    The rite of contrition after confession
    Whether Mrs Ramsay said it was doors or windows should be left open.
    But I'll always remember rule three thousand and ten:
    never sleep with married men.

    But I'll never forget rule three thousand and two:
    roses are red and mistresses are blue.... more »

  • STRAIGHT MEN OF CAPE TOWN

    Though neither sheik nor potentate
    each straight man in Cape Town
    has twenty wives: his own
    his widowed mom
    his wife's unmarried friends,
    their single sisters
    the spinsters and the divorcees

    whose potential partners are
    diving for doubloons off Cuba
    trading bonds in Singapore
    gathering meteorological data on Gough Island
    attaching nodes to interfaces in Dublin
    raising sheep in the Karoo
    mining platinum in Rustenburg
    running a kibbutz in Israel
    or still here in Cape Town but
    collecting porcelain and blow-drying hair.

    So the straight man of Cape Town sighs
    as he opens doors and walks behind
    and pulls out chairs, listening with half an ear
    to his wife's unmarried friends,
    the spinsters and the divorcees

    whose husbands left them
    for a stripper or a teen
    for a change of woman
    or for a change, a man,

    whose ghost lovers left
    for Cuba or for Dublin,
    for Rustenburg or Singapore,
    to farm in Carnarvon
    or on a kibbutz
    and so on,
    ensovoorts.... more »

  • TO THE DOCTOR WHO TREATED THE RAPED BABY AND WHO FELT SUCH DESPAIR

    I just wanted to say on behalf of us all
    that on the night in question
    there was a light on in the hall
    for a nervous little sleeper
    and when the bleeding baby was admitted to your care
    faraway a Karoo shepherd crooned a ramkietjie lullaby in the veld
    and while you staunched
    there was space on a mother-warmed sheet
    for a night walker
    and when you administered an infant-sized opiate
    there were luxuriant dark nipples
    for fist clenching babes
    and when you called for more blood
    a bleary-eyed uncle got up to make a feed
    and while you stitched
    there was another chapter of a favourite story
    and while you cleaned
    a grandpa's thin legs walked up and down for a colicky crier
    and when finally you stood exhausted at the end of her cot
    and asked, "Where is God?",
    a father sat watch.
    And for the rest of us, we all slept in trust
    that you would do what you did,
    that you could do what you did.
    We slept in trust that you lived.... more »