Ten cents

My father was a great gambler. When he won he came home with pockets weighed down by jingling coins and a nip of brandy. On those days we knew that he got lucky with a fafi number, the chinese game that was so popular in the township;still is. It made no difference to us, my mother and I, whether he won or lost, because we knew that we would not get even a cent from that man.

He was a tall and imposing man. His shoes where always dusty because he kicked up the dust when he walked. He shuffled rather than walked. And when he was drunk the dust went up to his pants. On some ocassions the dust even went up to his shirt. My mother was constantly scrubbing away at his clothes, but no matter how much she scrubbed they never got clean because there was never any soap with wich to wash. My father couldn’t even bring himself to buy soap, but he was constantly complaining about his clothes not being clean.

One day, while I was pushing a brick around the yard, and my mother was inside the house (a one room shack that was divided into a bedroom, a sitting room and a kitchen through various ingenuities) cooking the wild spinach that grew in abandon on our backyard, I saw my father approach. Our house looked directly into the main street, all who came and went passed this way. He shuffled his way through the street, singing to himself. He had a great baritone voice wich made an impression on anyone who heard it. I unfortunately did not inherit that voice, when people hear me speak or sing (if ever they could catch a glimpse of those private moments) I imagine some doubt is kindled as to whether I am indeed my father’s son.
He pushed open the small metal wire gate, wich sagged to the side like an injured dog. Both of his pockets where also sagging, the tinkling coins accompanying the melody of his voice, and the nip of brandy adding a jolly enthusiasm to that rich baritone. The dust had enveloped him from his shoes, to the collar of his shirt.
I stood up from my game, swinging my hands and walking like I was in a robotic marching band, I approached him.

“Pa?” I said.
“Yes, son of mine” he bellowed.
“Can I have ten cents?”

I was not in the habit of asking my father for money, and he was not in the habit of giving me any, but I wanted to test him on that day.
He looked at me with one eye closed, as if I was the subject of a very intense study, and the other eye was getting in the way of close and proper inspection.

“Ten cent, ten cent, ten cent…” he said, as if contemplating the wonderful concept of a ten cent.
“Ten cent…Matemusho,” he called to my mother.
“Eya papa.” answered my mother from inside the house.
“This child of yours is asking me for ten cent, did you send him to ask me for money?”
“Ha ah papa Temusho, I did no such thing.”
“Children of today…When I was your age I never asked my father for money. When I was your age my back was already bent from hard work.”
His back showed no trace of that particular childhood affliction.
“But I am too young to work” I said.
“Too young to work? Listen to this boy…Matemusho, how old is this child of ours?”
“He has ten years papa.”
“Ten years? And he says he is too young to work? Children of today, have you ever heard of such a thing…”
He shuffled off and is swallowed by the door, to regale my mother with tales of wich she has no interest.

I went back to my game of pushing bricks, with a plan formulating in my head. My father didnt care anyway. He didn’t care that I wore the same shirt to school five days in a row, washing it once a week in the gentlest way because I was afraid of getting it torn. He didn’t care that my pants were riddled with stitch after stitch, that my feet licked the ground because the soles of my shoes were gone, eaten away by one too many steps.
I knew that by the next day the money would be gone. He would drink it all or gamble it away, and arrive home looking like a wet cat, not at all like the jovial singing maestro he now was.

At night my father gave me his dusty shoes to polish, or atleast make them look presentable for another tussle with the dusty streets. My mother had already gone to bed, and I could hear my father fiddling with his belt, getting ready to get into bed as well. I brushed the shoes slowly, letting the time pass. When I heard him snore, I went into their bedroom and put the shoes under the old chair next to their bed where my father put his clothes, folded neatly and ready for another day. I was always amazed at how he managed to fold his clothes with such military precision, even when drunk. I took another look at him to make sure that he was still sleeping. He snored with his mouth open, drool running onto his pillow.
I tool all the money from his pocket. There was a small amount of brandy in the bottle of nip. I thought of drinking it, but then decided against it. I was about to leave when an idea occured to me. I went back to the chair and left a ten cent coin in his pocket.

In the morning I was woken by my fathers bellowing voice, as I expected, and I tossed my blanket aside, bracing myself for trouble.

“Wake that boy up, I’m killing someone today, I swear it.” said my father.

My mother came into the living room slash place where I slept, my father following behind with a belt in hand. I stood up immediately.

“Did you take your father’s money?” asked my mother.

“No I didn’t…”

“Hey don’t lie tome boy, give me that money!” said my father.

“I didn’t take it I am telling you I didn’t take it, I don’t know what you are talking about.”

My father raised his hand, the belt came down, I ducked and he missed. My mother had positioned herself on the door. when I ran towards her she opened the door and we ran out, my father following closely behind. There we where, me in only my underwear, my mother still wearing her once white but now yellowing hand me down silk night dress, and my topless father chasing us around the house, vomiting all manner of expletives known to man. At times he stopped and ran in the opposite direction hoping that we would run into him, but we we also stopped, and waited to see him turn the corner, at wich point we ran in the opposite direction. He would never catch us with that shuffling run. He soon got tired of chasing us, so he made his way into the house to get ready for work. We could hear him cursing to himself inside the house while we stood shivering in the early morning cold.

“Mama, I did take father’s money.” I confessed.

“I know…”

“You know?”

“I saw you last night when you took it,” she said with a smile, “Where did you put it?”

“I put it in a tin and buried it in that patch of ground where the wild spinach grows.”

“You did well, but you father is going to be angry for some time, so as soon as he leaves we get our things and head to mama Josephina’s house.”

Mama Josephina was the old woman next door who always provided us with shelter whenever my father went on a rampage. We stayed for four days at her house. After wich my father, singing with a jovial baritone, his pockets rattling with coins, came to fetch us.

“Mama Josephina, give me my people, I have come to fetch them”

He looked with one eye closed at the new shoes on my feet. I lifted them up for inspection unconsciously, my hands in the pockets of my new pants. he patted me on my head, rummaging in his pockets, and gave a ten cent coin.

The Dark In Me

I people watched heartbroken whilst sitting outside a small unknown cafe. One of those questionable days. Asking myself who what how’s and why’s and knowing the answers to many. My phone sat on the table, and every time I looked at it an anxious grip took over the beating heart, squeezing agonizingly. I exhaled and grabbed my chest as if to massage the organ out of its agony.
I found myself repulsive in the moment. Everyone around me seemed ethereal. She stood under an umbrella talking to her love, beads of rain caught in the shroud of her gold hair like tiny crystals. When she looked at me I looked away, pretending my eyes had never been on her. On them. I hated them.
I started regretting coming out to a public space, only to find myself continuously suppressing the urge to cry. Once again my eyes shot to the silent phone. Once again my heart fluttered, as if it was trying to become origami. A waiter came to the table and looked at me. Aha, the look of dreadful understanding. He knew enough by the red-rimmed eyes. I knew on any other day I’d never look at him twice. He was plain and inconsequential, a cog in a machine offering me old grapes. But today against me he was an Adonis.
‘More wine?’ he asked. I could not help but wonder is he loved. I held out my glass while staring outward into the drizzling rain and clouds of exhaust fumes, and the crushed newspapers, and the hand jammed in the pocket while dragging on a good looking cigarette. I lit one to keep busy and my phone finally buzzed. My heart that had just so recently been assaulted by the flutters now began to beat uncontrollably. I felt my chest slowly cascade inwards. Crushing my ribs and tugging at the huge invisible hole that had so recently been blown out of it. So I took a deep pull while narrowing my eyes, and picked up the phone.

It’s not that. I just need space. You overwhelm me. Even now you do.

The eyes scanned the sentence over and over until it blurred. I didn’t care who saw. The blow was crushing. The steam filled streets and sudden burts of laughter grated against my every fiber. I didn’t hesitate. Did my pride matter? It didn’t. Loneliness did.

But please I need you, I’m sorry for everything can’t you see that?? Please I’m sorry. Don’t walk away from me.

I couldn’t have been the only one. As long as there are humans there are breakups. I held my hand against my chest and put a shaky cigarette down. The breaths came a bit short. I made some uncomfortable eye contact and then quickly looked away, trying to pretend this was some other kind of ailment. Why was he being so stupid? We all knew what ‘space’ meant. It meant space, up there, that is never-ending. Couldn’t he understand I was suffering? While he sat and ate fine and slept fine I was up suffering and starving while suffering? Couldn’t he see his power over me? The power to make me suffer? Some distant recess of my mind told me he knew all too well that I suffered. He knew it, and the dark side of him enjoyed this power over another human. For instance his last reply was half an hour later while I anxiously paced and paced inside my head for his reply.
I lifted what was left of my cigarette and took a sip of the wine. Shivers ran up my spine. I was hoping nobody was paying close attention to me. I fought the urge to send another message, and then another, and another…. I felt the need to explain in every religious, scientific and philosophical term why we belonged together and that he was making a mistake. I imagined another hand running its course through his hair.
I tipped my head forward unable to handle the surge of emotions and thoughts. My shoulders jerked forward as I let the tears run freely. All I needed in the moment was him. It hurt knowing I needed him but he didn’t need me. It peeled off my skin slowly and painfully. My phone buzzed. I didn’t hesitate.

No. I don’t want you anymore.

I didn’t understand why a knife in his hand was not a better option. I saw nothing around me, I felt nothing in me but empty destruction. I was repulsive, he was simultaneously repulsive to me and irresistible to me. The people, the woman and her lover, the waiter all repulsed me. I felt the need to bang the table or be extremely rude to the waiter, or to go missing so that he can worry and have many regrets. Elbows on the table I held my face in my hands and looked up slowly at the grey sky and began questioning love again. My heart was in a kind of treacherous pain that seemed designed to be enough to kill while still leaving you alive. I felt nauseated. The situation was completely useless.
There in the blurry distance I could see why in all honestly, as I tried to convince myself, it was all a huge mistake. It was such a life altering decision and it changed too much for me to be prepared for. But I stayed in my seat. I became a zombie. Until the dark told me to leave. But I didn’t. The dark in me was all I could see.

only if i was less foolish

if life was a film/a book and I was the official,i guarantee you that I would censor it at every horrible part of its chapter.

one Monday morning I woke up to a delightful day it felt like it was gonna be the best day of my life,God pardon my confusion.It was the day I bought pain and sorrows in my life and to my already critical emotions.I took a long over whelming bath,with the smell of fire to fire body lotion it felt like heaven.

My school bag was ready,school books all packed in and school uniform ironed ready for me to wear.When done I made my self breakfast “just a bowl of cereal will do” I thought to myself.

i grabbed my bag and off to school I went,while at that I bumped into someone.His steak of books fell to the ground,I bended down to pick them up that instant with hope that it’s no one rude.Only to notice it was him, “its the guy from school” I wasn’t aware that I was thinking out loud.Nevertheless he gave me a formal introduction and trust me when i tell you I was impressed.

days…….weeks…….months……passed and we got to know each other, we grew closer and firm together that he even proposed love to me.I was too blind and foolish to believe him.We dated for a year and few months it felt so amazing,i was so complaints towards him with no curb.

All that was for nothing,I am stating this with tears on my face.Now we like strangers who are taking the same road to a funeral…….IF ONLY I HAD NOT LISTENED TO HIM…….I wouldn’t have had to deal with the heartache,so much torture,lots of pain because of seeing the love of your life love someone else.

It just felt like my world came crushing down with the thought of watching but not being able to do a thing about it.

Do you want to know what happened not long ago?it certainly involves the same person I really must tell………
but that’s a story for another day


Freedom for me is, being who I truly am beyond the limits of body, space and time, that traps our souls in beliefs, opinions, judgement and fear. Freedom is being free of that disorientated mind… A mind that takes us away from heart and soul, instead clouds a being of magnificence which we fear to explore and expose to the universe, due to our insecurities, holding onto past experiences that hurt and wound us within, not forgiving and only expecting a new result repeating a cycle we have never dared to step up and out of.

However once we realize fear can be a friend and it is ok to forgive, as well as take a step forward beyond our limits or comfort zones, we are privledged to experience a state of freedom that defines a peace that is filled with a love that overflows into our surrounding environments. An experience of love that is unconditional and creates an atmosphere which fills the world with an ecstasy which never dies.
A love that is not necessarily physical bound to body, space and time however spiritual free, infinite and timeless.

True freedom is letting go of beliefs and behaviors of how one thinks it should be into how it actually is in the moment. Using that negative energy we create a positive result with a shift in consciousness, a transformational shift that changes ones thoughts to instead align ones self to being their true ‘real self’.

So do yourself a favour and choose to let go and just go with the flow, that is already present in the now. Trust and have faith instead of fear and embrace the present moment of now being open to experience a sense of stillness without fear, judgement or the need to justify every moment. Live with aliveness focused on a vision instead of dying to survive in a world in which one cannot truly escape without going beyond all limitations.

Freedom is truly Nothing…

NO-THING, a infinte space you allow yourself to loose control in that is open, vast and empty. We fear our deepest selves because it creates a loneliness no thing can truly and honestly occupy, it is an empty spaces with no label or definition, without a definition, it makes it hard for our minds to grasp however only our magnificence of soul can understand. It is a language spoken and heard in silence within an infinite hollowness.

It is the beauty of this hollow emptiness which is freedom….


There has been a flood not a conservation of water but everything that the child eats seems to taste like snow dripping like aloe sap. Secrets can be earth-shattering. Humanity is not meant to keep secrets. Secrets can kill. So their bodies flowed with the water and its carcass became two, and there is an obsession that they carry with them to the grave. Hearing voices, even in spirit Di steals. There is potential in its metallic caress but also nausea, paranoia, and insanity. My skin is a wall, a hellish ruin. A home where I do not want to be. The child Felicity cannot wail anymore. She cannot be held in Di’s arms anymore. This happy ending is washed out. The children involved have been brainwashed.

They both met the wolves at the door. Di’s last words must have been, ‘Beg.’ Then again she held no more power over him. James Smith’s addictions will never die and in his poetry there are shades of sirens. But Felicity and Di are also there, ghosts. Time was just pretend. People, women growing older around him while Di and Felicity stayed forever young. Tucked in a filthy grave made of earth both with their beautiful. With their dark exotic hair and foreign air but they are still in a homeless space. Di surfacing a grown up in a maze, an experiment and in the end she has won but in the end where is her speech. Her perspective, her poetry? Everything cannot have been destroyed.

What would she say? If she was still alive today. James Smith said, ‘Heal Di. Your words are practically magic. They give you an identity. At night, future stories will come to you in dreams. You are the only one who can make you feel safe. I divulge all of the world in my poetry.’ When he put his hands on her body and wrote love poems, loose translations naming the abandonment of body parts. Di was both an adored survivor but she loved to wear disguises. And after all the damages were done Smith said, May all their souls rest in peace’. Forgive me Saint Maybe.

What is there left to salvage? She wears a scarf around her neck. One of my own and now Felicity is an Eskimo princess pure through and through. Our foreignness appears less so now. You can be more bold now indiscreet. Now I live like a cloistered nun. Oh I much prefer it that way. I was dying before but I never had the words for it or the strength to say it when pain conquered everything. Now there is no more cold and no more talking. No more waking and aloof indifference. No more stupid winter London sky. Unstable water, pathetic people sitting on the park benches feeding the ducks.

You’re as frozen as the earth we’re covered in. Your atoms are merely biology, plenty scientific but here is where we say our goodbyes. At the opening of the graves. A kiss for a kingdom. Just a taste. A kiss for the dying but, see, it is far too late for that. It’s salt. Don’t ridicule me. Your behaviour has been far from exemplary. Di found herself locked in an embrace. Safe in the dark. Smith was a poet. Di was a poet with shark teeth. A torso stretched out in the local swimming pool. Daily she would begin a water baptism, a ceremony. There is a writer’s diary in water. The body is an earthworm, and like last chances they search for an intersection.

Once upon a time James, Di and their small daughter Felicity were a family. Then dysfunction ruled the day. James dreamt of his work, Felicity’s legacy. Di in her solitary moments was blue as she braided Felicity’s hair, prepared porridge for the breakfast for the three of them. I have to leave a note was all that Di could think of. I have to put my castles in the air in order. Di was the one who stood over the kitchen sink scratching the grease from the pan that James had fried the bacon in with her fingernails. Every landscape is an image. They have delicious photographs of families, of functions, of get-togethers that Di and James and Felicity was not a part of.

You see in the end I was not so tough sweetie on top of the lake. That list, my recipes keep them hold onto them, save them for the keeper. I’m not a complete hard-hearted fool. Just wounded. I know you’ve been about town and made no secret about it. There are pearls of wisdom. This swarm of words from a summer journal. I threw it into the sea.

Dreaming of Malibu

There is nothing lost in translation when coming home to the mock husband. I am not coping because I am not the doctor. Because I am not the one who is fluent in the doctor’s language no matter how hard I try. How will I be able to benefit from wearing that white laboratory coat, stethoscope around the neck, with that particular bedside manner? Where is my infinite piano? Watch this. Watch this romance. It is clever math, no; it is elegant math with all of its violent alertness under my fingertips. What is the weather like in Los Angeles? What is a winter like in Los Angeles? What will my head say to my heart as I walk on that beach, or breathe in that valid air from that Parisian meadow with my moral compass to navigate me on those open roads, the wide open spaces of the Midwest? What will my limbs say to each other in London if I ever get around to having that London experience forgoing all my responsibilities as a writer and a poet in South Africa? For is not that what I am primarily. A South African writer and poet living in a post-apartheid apocalyptic city. City life as opposed to life in the rural countryside. Searching for greener pastures in the asphalt garden where everything is golden and chameleon-like. I have never wanted the experience of loss. The measure of loss but life has given me that responsibility. Sutures too.

And panic and I have had to thread both against threadbare knuckles. I have covered myself up with an American quilt. It has become my shroud. It has become my cover in other poetry. But I feel it all the time now. The warmth of anxiety. I feel it humming, humming, and humming in my bones. Singing to the leaves on the winter trees. Guests every one. They are like bees. They are a rapturous swarm. What do I know without having a sophisticated culture, a knowledge and education beyond this tidal moon and sun and then I think of the planets. How like the planets I am? I know my place. I know my place so well now that I cannot give it up. And why would I? There will never be a case of mistaken identity. All I will ever know about life is the predictions of Sappho, poetry and writing. And how sometimes how beautifully unpredictable life can be otherwise. There are storms in the dark and we need to speak about the acute pain from those storms in beautiful and wonderful ways. Mostly the image of depression is that of a wild thing. When I am crazy, I know that is when I am most alive. When I am not crazy, when I am most sober is also when I am most alive but I do not know it. All feeling leaves me and I long for the stress of crazy. I long for someone to tell me I am beautiful.

You are mine. The pain of Sarajevo is in my blood. Mingled there in my blood. Staring back at me in my blood and but what can I do but stare back at it? The door was somehow left ajar for me and my heart was bursting. It ready to be split open like a pomegranate. Seeds everywhere like seawater. I found wild oblivion, the safe passage from suffering in those seeds. At first I could not speak of the fantasy that I held in my hands and that my head wished for so ardently. I could not interpret those promised lands that my mocking husband returned from. I needed land and yet I needed to be reborn as well. I needed stress, a tour of the flesh like I needed the back of my hand. I flickered and then I was buried once again amongst the flowers. And with dirt upon my head I soon realised that I was supposed to be the beautiful keeper of the vanished and the unexamined. The apprehended. I do not want to age. To age means to give up your mortality like an artist giving up their brushes. To age means to give up everything. To age means that you are not bold anymore and that you do not have anything to be brave over. It just happens to be in your blood to think these things. Never mind how you try not to. I need to write to you of the quiet courage of our mothers and our grandmothers. So pay attention.

Sleeping Woman as a Prophet

I will not smile because that is not what attracts you to me. Instead it is fire. Instead it is sitting in the school benches once upon a time, breathing lessons, celestial navigation, driftwood, and a forest of winter trees, the force of the night swimmers, the beach and making each one in its exclusivity sound poetic. Sound the most exquisitely poetic. What is the first memory, the first desire, the primitive attraction and separation anxiety of the magnificence of creativity in the origins of the organisation of feminine intelligence in contemporary poetry? Is the proper voice not the voice of the lover, the voice of the child full of jubilant innocence?

The voices of mother and father in unison giving their child their first standing ovation, grandparents in attendance looking on priggishly mere caretakers of the illumined situation? How quickly pasts are mended, futures are healed and mended? Here is the beginning stages of the organisation of the origins of feminine intelligence. She is schooled in thoughts of culture, a masculine wisdom, vision, and educated by an otherness in luminous stream of consciousness thinking, writing. We need to be drenched in both perspective and identity. Our winning power (that which will never cease) lies in trying not to destroy everything that is above us, and that we believe in. Even our failures must inspire us. For the woman who can’t have children her infertility must inspire her to greater heights.

Whatever was taken was the brightness from the air that made up the shine of artistic genius and it was given to me like the besotted Milky Way, the tangled fabric of the stars from the universe at night, the moon and stars inseparable intuits from the beginning of time. Both pulling down the shine of artistic genius a veil as thick as a tapestry. Is the sanity of a female poet as graceful as a shipwreck left to the gracious mercy of being the bride and bridegroom of nature as we think it is? Aren’t we all, aren’t you just a little bit at the mercy of the creativity’s elusive artistry. Its ravishing blues, the breakdown to end all breakdowns, the be all and end all of the nervous breakdowns? Is it just chemical?

Is the sexual impulse, and that drive just the glamourous rub of love, as glamourous as lipstick? Does the female poet promise that it, her words can never be more than that? Sometimes I catch myself saying those words without really meaning to say it, to say them. I try and detach myself from the glowing artful truth of them. Composing stillness, a courageous stillness, the stillness of intelligence, which is a feminine intelligence is poorer for having known the poverty of the world, and spiritual poverty. With all of the perversions that we discover in this world. With the intimacies, braveries, warriors we learn to let go, surrender if you will. We must or how can we live? We are all waiting for gifts. As a reward for futility or to take upon as just another responsibility.

There was a journal full of darkness in this most primitive of landscapes. Where winter promises snow, the harvesting of into the black, of one bleak and desolate landscape after the other the female poet projects herself into the canvas of her work. Her life becomes the poetry. Art mirrors life. Life mirrors art. The reflection of the female poet is a studious, effortless and conscientious project. The female poet only has to be wild and knowledgeable. She is an animal with a gull’s wings and fortitude. She instructs, she corrects, she astonishes, she admonishes and she knows that to live in this world she has to be the swan. She has to swim.

But she must also have the insight of the ugly duckling, the Cinderella phenomenon, the Plath effect. A female poet knows when to sing, when to be mischievous, when to be the swimmer, the bride, give in to the environment, nature and when to love until she can feel it humming in her bones, giving into it through the fabric of her skin. The female poet in love knows when to surrender. The female poet when casting spells knows when to surrender. The words are there for us to go back to like a complicated film of us in a breath-taking way. A female poet does not need the eye of the public to watch her every move to know that she has made a difference in the world. She only needs a child’s all-knowing eyes.

When it comes to rain it always dances like the gestures of imagination, and like the chilled earth in your hand that roses grow from, that fields of grass wrestle with themselves in, trees are not the interlopers but merely angels in another dimension with their branches acting like wings. You can tell yourself that here’s the breakthrough I’ve been looking for. Here’s the book of secrets my heart’s been longing for. And then you will realise that these are all gifts within the hours of your quiet desperation.

And that the vision of the female poet is in full bloom when she stands at the mouth of a river or not. When she’s hungry, whatever the origins of her beauty is, and most especially when she’s gone underground like some animal seeking shelter from the elements. There she stands. Blooming beautifully with her gift. Her poetry is fresh. It is her pound of flesh. It is her Renaissance. Isn’t the ancient dust under her bare feet delectable, hard won although it is a romance that is as good as dead, and she wants evidence of the cities, of life there because she doesn’t think she’ll make it if she’s plain? If she’s ordinary, if her madness is staggeringly ordinary and most of all if her poetry is not useful, pure enough.


Una laps the pond water like a dog. Her eyes stare into the sharded reflection of her animal self. None to see her in the moonlight. It’s her and the pondweed-and-frog smell of the night. She wonders how it is that all she ever feels, really feels, deep down, is utter confusion – a constant state of not being in touch, missing out on vital truths, seeing them in outline perhaps but never grasping them in her spacious moon-brain. The pitted moon – how far from the earth and closer to the sun, yet always one part in utter darkness.

She envies the clear conviction and certainty of people who live in her world. Why aren’t they aware of the bendable, stretchable universe and the chaos. The limitations of her mind perplex her. Why can’t she reach out and touch those shadows that circle around her like dancers.

The lights in the house glow orange and comforting. She watches, like an outsider, through the curtains into her home. Her children move in the lounge and the man stands clutching an oven-glove watching a fascinating moment on the little television across the room. She hears the hum of TV talk and human conversation. It’s a very pretty sight – moving and comforting – yes.

To be a part of that and not – an interesting position.

She pushes her hands into the grass and slowly gets up. Brushes the pond-side bits and pieces off her cotton dress and slips sandals onto her feet, spits the hair out of her mouth, straightens her cardigan.

He steps onto the veranda and frowns into the darkness. “Una,” he calls, “did you get the teddy bear?”

She’d forgotten about the child’s bedtime comfort. She’d come out to look for it among the trees where the children had been playing. They both knew the drama that would ensue.

“No,” she said.

“Well come in anyway. It’s late and sooner or later he’ll have to learn to do without the thing.”

The limp thing smelt of her little son’s adenoids and perspiration. It was almost hairless where he had rubbed it and held it night after night. There were patches covering the holes where stuffing had leaked out. It had a green waistcoat and its eyes were dulled with scratches. An object of love and security.

In that warm house there is never time to reflect, to talk to the quiet. Out here in the autumn darkness she feels less like the squeezed teddy bear.

“Una!” there is a note of impatience now.

“I’m coming…”

I’m coming into the warm world again, to be filled with business and cooking and you. I’m leaving behind my animal self, leaving it crouching in the long grass, gazing at the moon.


A thin string of smoke rises to the air on the mountain. Then another and another and another. People are settling in for the long night ahead as the sun says its red goodbyes over the peak. They’re stupid. Letting them know exactly where they are. Making it easy for them. Like killing an ant. Around me, smarter people hide under the trees and next to the rocks as the long grass of the field keep guard. A small river breaks the field into two. It runs with a steady stream of water only interrupted by the occasional floating, rotting island. A year ago people would have cared. They would have tried to get them out, but know it just seems like a task that would waste energy and make too much noise. Rubble and remnants of structures that were once houses line both sides of the street that was once a home. Up closer to the mountain, I know, stand another, collapsed and empty. A creative mailbox would have proudly displayed its number as 831. 831 26th Avenue, Rietfontein, Pretoria. I can still remember my address. Useless, I guess, but it is like a memento of yesterday. Just a piece of it that can’t be stolen or ‘forced-extracted’.

“Why are you standing in the middle of the street,” I hear a voice from behind me say, “Aren’t we going in there?”

I look around to find her standing behind me, a frown settled on her brow and a look pointing past me to a bare, concrete structure. “Maybe it would be better to sleep in the field,” I say, “Safer.”

She doesn’t even take time to think about it. Her brow frowns and her lips pull tight.

“Boetie!”she says, the word still as innocent in her mouth as ever, “You promised we wouldn’t be sleeping in a field again. You know I hate the…”

“The rats and the spiders and the snakes,” I finish for her, “And the crickets and the grass sticking to everything.” I look to her with a grin.

“Well I do,” she says and walk closer to me, “Please can we just sleep in there?”

I know we shouldn’t. The field will hide us from troublemakers and FFE troupes. The structure won’t. I listen for a familiar crackling sound, but none meets with my ears and I let a sigh escape from my lungs. She still stares at me with those big, blue eyes. The same ones my mother used against me to do the dishes.

“Fine,” I finally give in, “but just because it’s your birthday, Anne. Tomorrow we’re sleeping in the field and you’re cuddling the rats, Okay?” She laughs and pushes past me.

“Race you there!”

The structure is cold. A breeze runs around its corners and whistles at the next. No one else occupies the destroyed space and we walk towards a section that still has some of its roof intact. I set our bag down and point Anne towards the floor under the roof. A few tiles still managed to survive their cracked siblings. She does as I instruct and I decide to take a look around before settling in myself. Here and there something different peaks through the normal piles of rubble. A television, its screen broken, lies next to a shopping cart with only two of its wheels left. The television once would have shown his face declaring war against anyone that opposed him or he simply didn’t like. It would have shown those first few months drenched in red and it would have shown the week that the bombs started destroying everything. I walk back to Anne where she sits rummaging through the bag. She looks up as I come closer.

“Where’s the juice box I found?” she asks.

“I gave it to that kid remember,” I say knowing she wouldn’t. I didn’t tell her.

“Not again,” she moans, “You always give our stuff away.”

“We have enough. Bread and water. Those kids don’t even have brothers or sisters like we have. Right?” Her lips tighten again, but I don’t let the frown climb back up her forehead. I tickle her and she falls on her back laughing.

“Shhh,” I say lowering my voice, “We’re making too much noise.” I laugh at her and then help her upright. Then I reach into the bag and pull out two slices of bread and a bottle of water. We sit there, eating in silence as the moon takes over the shift from the sun.

“Boetie,” she says after a few bites, “Do you think Mom and Dad would have been here if I didn’t cry?”

I sigh. She always asks this and I always give her the same answer.

“Mom and Dad died protecting us. They wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

“I still remember her smell, you know?”

“I know. Me too,” I breathe in the night air and she mimics me, “It’s getting late. You better sleep. We’re going over the mountain tomorrow.”

She takes the last bit of bread into her mouth and lies her head down on the bag as she chews the last bits.

“Happy birthday, Anne.”

That night as the moon kept rising and the air became colder my eyes shot open at the sound of a familiar crackling.

Docile Davey Delaney

“Davey, where did you get that?”

The man rubbed the wine stain profusely. His favourite shirt, completely ruined by overindulgence and assorted silliness. Muttering, he gave up. The stain would have to remain…

“My dad never locks his cabinet. Look at it, Martha…It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“David…your shirt’s a mess.” His wife was a neat freak. She had seven arms, no breasts and a monolith in her stomach. That’s how he saw her. “Ja…Ja…It was a silly accident, Jennifer…Nothing to get pissed about,” he hollered towards the kitchen. She never knew when to let something go. “Then you mess it up worse by trying to clean it. Why didn’t you just leave it for me?” He bit down hard on his teeth. “One of these days…” She came into the room. “David, I’m talking to you…”

“Davey, be careful…Please…”

He loaded the red stained, rolled-up carpet in the back of his dirty bakkie. “Have to stop by the carwash first, then go to the supermarket, then I have to get rid of the carpet…Lastly, I have to pick up the girls, can’t forget the girls…”

“Don’t be such a baby…Nothing’s gonna happen!”

He bought himself a tall strawberry-flavoured crushed ice and invoked brain freezes, whilst loading the cart with boxes of custard and yogurt cookies. He waltzed in the isles, attracting stares and sniggers masking secret admiration. Then he found what he was really looking for…He was a gap-tooth kid again, doing whatever he felt like with no fear of the consequences.

“Davey, you always get us into trouble…DAVEY, WATCH OUT!”

His favourite song, “Break my stride”, served as the soundtrack for his journey. CD on loop… The clean bakkie stopped by the side of a road overlooking a steep embankment. He wrestled the heavy carpet from the vehicle with great difficulty. He ensured that the coast was clear, before rolling it over the edge. He stood there, staring entranced as the carpet rolled to the bottom where it joined an army of other lonely junk. He felt free at last, severed from useless responsibilities…

“Martha! Martha! Please, wake up now…Open your eyes, Martha!”

The two girls sprinted towards the bakkie, competitive to the last. “Ja, good one, my girls… Linda took it!!” He laughed uproariously. “But don’t worry, Sandra…my little angel…you’ll get another chance tomorrow…” The girls giggled in stereo. “Is mommy home yet?” He stared off into the distance, suddenly distracted. “No, Sandra…Mommy’s not home yet…”

“Please Martha…Please don’t leave me…” The blood dripped from the walls and pooled on the shaggy carpet, more blood than he had ever seen before…

They arrived home at last. The girls ran into the house. Davey stayed in the bakkie. He turned up the volume on his favourite song, “The king of wishful thinking”… CD on loop…The girls screamed…

“David…Dinner’s ready… I made your favourite… Thanks for buying them those dolls; they’ve been nagging for weeks… ” Jennifer kissed him tenderly. “Ja, I found those dollies on special this morning. There were just two left, how lucky was that, babe?” She smiled. “Very lucky, Davey…” “Ja, I bought the dollies home and put them on their beds. You know, to surprise them…” She ran her hand through his gruff hair. “I’ll be there just now, babe.” His wife was his loving inspiration. She had auburn locks, flawless skin, timeless curves and a new future in her stomach. That’s how he saw her. He had fallen asleep in the dirty bakkie. He gathered himself, shaking cobwebs loose. “Count your daily blessings, Davey…” This refrain looped in his head, as he went inside…