I never thought
You could defeat me,
I always thought
My will stronger.
But you are a white man,
with white hair
And so you and your henchmen
Turned me into something
A parody of myself –
I am not on the side
of your tribe.
And the past is not forgotten.
The miners of Geduld
who cough up
Pieces of lung in shacks
who fought against you
At Cuito Cuanavale.
Last request: a camera
Aimed at the man with the gun.
He lifts the rifle,
I click the shutter,
The photograph on the screen
To my father.
The bullet collides somewhere near
I stagger home –
To be not dead.
Now the task is
They were unruffled,
The artist and his mistress, when I arrived in a battered kombi
To save the wife.
But she had already disappeared.
Only pink water in a bucket and a bloodstain
That smelled of detergent and would not wash out
On the floor near the fridge.
It is happening to me now.
As I try to hide behind the rose bushes,
He says: “Did you really think you could escape?”
Tick bite fever
My knight in shining armour
Turned out to be a tick
With no eyes
Who crawled out of the veld and drank my blood until I became so sick
He had to turn to another source of life
What they don’t tell you in fairy tales
Is that there is nothing
Behind the polished armour –
Inside the shiny smooth body of the tick you will find only
Your own blood.
This wound inside
Most days sits quiet, seeping
As imperceptibly as a body breathing –
But oh how the merest thought or
kiss can tear open the thin membrane,
disgorging bits and then
I am on the edge, almost falling
into that void –
the solar plexus.
I was 19 going on 20
when they put me into the hospital for settlers
I cannot remember why, though it must have been
for something shameful
I remember the white ward
with two ancient white ladies, fellow settlers
one was dying
the other had lost her faculties
or at least some of her reason in the sense that
reason is focused on present coordinates
she kept rattling the end of her bed
like a cage and calling for “Florence”
and her little dog called Tover
Tover, Tover, where is my little dog
sometimes she swam into the present
and focused on her gasping companion
calling for the nurses to feed her grapes
as grapes are very digestible
sometimes I put my hands to my eyes
and feel the bones of my skull
it’s coming for all of us
the bones rattling their cage
wanting to get out –
there was just the hole
and the fence.
She is the one who died in the woods.
I was kneeling beside her as she expired
from that awful gunshot wound, and she looked into
and I held her close.
Somebody else was there,
but it was not you.