With our raging limbs
Entwined and enfolded,
We cling to each other.
Swooping and bowing,
Always close to the ground.
Thousands of sandals
Snapping the rhythm
Of our red-hot earth
Puffing between our toes.
For years, the hardly suppressed
Violence of our thoughts
Danced.

© GB 2008

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Yours is the only love I’ve known;
The years we’ve shared have been so gay.
Please do not leave me on my own.

Such wild nights! Singing without tone –
Remember how we used to play?
Yours is the only love I’ve known.

And now that I am older – grown
Tired, wearied by our long days –
Please do not leave me on my own.

We used to dance all the way home
And you would skip and spin and sway.
Yours is the only love I’ve known.

More likely now to moan and groan,
My stiff joints creak, my hair’s gone grey;
Please do not leave me on my own.

And here I sit beside this stone
With nothing left to do, but pray:
“Yours is the only love I’ve known,
Please do not leave me on my own”.

© GB 2008

Hanging from the tree,
her still stinging buttocks, flushed
with embarrassment.

© GB 2008

She called it cowardice.

She was right, but I would not say so.

My eyes glittered with tears I would not spill for her
And my tongue sat like a toad in my throat and strangled every
Word.

I would not break my stride, though I limped with guilt.

“What we need is distance”.

I glanced back, raw with shame and saw
In her moody, sea-green eyes,
A glint, as of a sail being caught by the wind and
Snapping

Taut.

© GB 2008

He had been troubled by nightmares for years. So much so that he no longer cared that he wasn’t able to sleep for very long. Waking was always a relief to him. There was always, of course, the moment of bewilderment and panic when he first woke. Like a sinking man that has been buoyed on currents and breaks the surface of the water with what may be his final gasp for air.
He didn’t bother to look at the bedside clock – he knew it would be sometime between two and half-past three, it always was.
He lay still, recovering his breathing and concentrating on the sadness that accompanied his relief upon waking. The sadness that came from never remembering his dreams though they disturbed him so, as though he were resigned to the fact that there could never be an explanation.
He listened to the sounds of the house, bricks and mortar as restless as himself; that creaked and groaned and sometimes suspiciously popped. The building seemed to resonate with the stored memories and dreams of all those who had passed through it, including his own, as if these thoughts had leached into the floorboards and roof tiles. He wished that he were able to speak the language of houses and unravel his dreams – conversations that would fill these long, early hours when most people were asleep. He would much rather hear about the sedentary situation of a row of terraces than be one of those who were watching call-ins and reality programming on television – a kind of purgatory for the sleepless.
There would be clubbers gurning with eye-popping insistence, kerb-crawlers cruising along the fringes of parks, 24-hour-drinkers stumbling towards evasive taxis, murderers, muggers and rapists lurking around corners. Pariahs and predators all. He had no wish to encounter to these people. Less human to him than the houses in which they live.
To converse with another insomniac who took to wandering the streets with a determined and single-minded search for elusive sleep could be even worse than the rest. No, he would rather chat with tower blocks than have to endure that.
There was a time when he thought that he would be able to find a cure for the dreams and then sleep through the night. G.P.s and psychiatrists. He did not dispute their findings that he was depressed, nor did he disagree when they decided that he was bipolar. In fact, had they told him that he was an alien being with amnesia he would have accepted it in exchange for a few hours of dreamless sleep. Aropax and Lithium. The first was to keep him from despair and the other was to dampen his excitement.
The doctor, a very stern woman with a severe look in her eyes as though she were daring him to counter her, said, ‘Of course, the treatment is experimental, all of these kinds of treatments are. We simply do not know enough about the functioning of the human brain to be certain that this particular combination of drugs will work…’
They did work… in a way. He managed to get his eight hours of sleep every night and never felt distressed on waking. He became a creature of routines; he took his tablets and made his appointments with the psychiatrist, he went to work and then came home and went to sleep. He woke. He made shopping lists. He tidied his flat and found the places where things belonged and stored them there. He alphabetised his books and CDs, then rearranged them by genre and alphabetised them again. He counted the people he passed on the street: the number of men; the women; the number of women pushing buggies; carrying shopping bags; carrying green shopping bags; the number of men with their hands in their pockets; wearing coats; turning the next corner. He went to the doctor and then to the pharmacy with another prescription. He ate something, watched something on television, took his tablets, went to bed and slept without dreaming.
It was during one of his last sessions with the psychiatrist that he asked to be taken off the medication. He said that he felt empty and that perhaps that space was supposed to be filled with melancholy.
He said that he wanted to dream, despite his troubled sleep. The house sighed as he got up and turned on the light.

© GB 2007

(Today, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Today was also the last day of initiation into high school.)

‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’

We impis carried our defeat around our ankles,
shuffling along corridors with bottle-top bracelets jiggling our arrival.
Made to parade before prefects, our trouser legs tucked into socks –
so simply disowned from the right to progress from junior-school shorts.
Carrying shields hastily fashioned from cardboard and tape,
that offered us no protection from the drenching roar of the toilet flush
or the chortles and sneers that met our every arrival and departure.
We stumbled over doormats and across doorways,
drunk with embarrassment and blinded by shame,
always averting our war-painted faces for fear of another
pointless task being set with the gravity of the truly mundane –
Push this coin along the ground with your nose.
Stand with your lips pressed against that tree.
Count the number of bricks in that wall.
Trim the rugby field with these scissors.
And so we did.

© GB 2007

The countryside sighs –
Mist swallows the road
That runs into the city.

© GB 2007

I remember this scene from a film,
Black and white.
Was it Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy?
I don’t think it was Laurel and Hardy.
The familiarity is nagging.
And here it is,
Replayed,
In full colour,
In 3-D,
As the man in the short coat
Wheels his arms
And falls backwards,
Pivoting on his left heel
Like the needle on a speedometer
Picking up pace,
Reaching the tipping point
And surrendering to
Gravity.
His hands splay,
Bracing him for impact
And the crowd catches its breath
Each one bracing themselves
For the inevitable,
Now slow-motion
Collapse.
His feet are now airborne
And for a moment
He is suspended
Parallel to the ground,
A magician’s trick,
That goes wrong
As he thuds against
Concrete.
His wide eyes,
And creased brow,
Slowly give way
To the tug of a smile
And the crowd chuckles
To see the banana peel
Stuck to his shoe.

© GB 2007

As you can see from the map,
Here are the schools, mosques,
Churches, markets, shopping centres –
All tagged for future development.
Our documents indicate that
Prime real estate can also be found
In the suburbs where homes
Have conveniently been deconstructed
Into their raw materials.
Indications are, that although the cities
Have been punched full of holes,
They can be landscaped
By an abundant and cheap workforce
To a style that is to your liking.
We have listened to the concerns of some locals
And found them entirely without basis.
Although we don’t have anyone that speaks
Native on our staff we are assured that
The majority feel the same way we do
And are understood to say:
Why rebuild when you can start again?

© GB 2007

“He was quiet,
A bit of a loner.
He kept himself to himself.
We never had any trouble with him.
A devoted son.
A good neighbour”.

Then,
From behind picket fences
Bared like rows of white teeth,
And curtains secured with jerks and
Veiled with nets,
Their uncertainties will grow.
From their deckchairs splayed on lawns
Restrained by clipped spruce hedges,
And from magnolia stained rooms
With titanic televisions
That mumble through the night,
Someone will be bound to say:
“He was a bit of an odd fish”.

And then teacups will clatter into saucers,
As they recount, around
Mouthfuls of custard creams
(In tabloid detail)
How I painted the door,
Red.

© GB 2007

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