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Polar Sunsets

 

Glass film, fiery cold behind

burning behind the blue wisps

and orange, like winter morning on snow

ice, the sea a film too

And her eyes wild burning

Manic sunset

And his eyes kind and sad

on the couch wanted to come

“It’s nice to have you back.”

 

She’s soaring and burning, beautiful, in trouble

never been stable, screaming child

The sky burned cold, the sea was dull with a thinning

strip of sunlight and building clouds.

It gets dark too early, sun’s drowned too early

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Wednesday 15 March – Cloudy Prose

The morning was softly lit. The clouds lay low in a broken blanket, a contrasting white in the cracks. It was heavy, dim and cold. He glanced up through sunglasses, meekly asserting his gaze longer at the sun: a pinhole searing cold through the cloud cover. He rested them back on the road, broken grey with pothole rubble, swinging round the traffic circle, descending to the icy rich voice of Westside Gunn.

The black Whitey Bulger, I want my money now or I’m ‘a smoke ya.

He was in a lecture scribbling away, half-imagining holding his pen nib-side-up on the page and driving his eye into it. An ant had somehow found its way onto his page, crawling thoughtlessly from the bottom up. He didn’t kill bugs anymore, actually had become a bit of a benevolent deity in their existence, flicking them from drowning pools, accommodating them out through open windows, watching them with removed affection. But with the mechanic scribbles of his hand he had crushed the ant, and seeing it dead he brushed it off the page with a mild apology.

The coffee shop was once a jail and he sat writing and needing a shit inside one of the old cells, now converted chic with silver plastic linguine threads hanging on the back wall and a patterned rug on the floor. Out the small door was the tower, a tall cylindrical building painted a dying yellow. Grey and musty red smears ran from the small rectangular windows notched in two rows around the building, and from its aging cracks. Quite a beautiful building. There was a multi-directional cross black above its roof. Beyond the tower stood a magnificent tree. Its bark was like bone or antlers, tall and spreading into its leaves. Solemn, stony, its leaves only moved a little. It had grown peering into this grave place when it was still grave, and now it was a coffee shop, quite a good one; it imposed its gloomy presence lest we forget it.

Later: Clouds were large overhead but looked bigger over the small houses on the hill across. A landscape of blue-grey curves, separated from the little block orange roofs by a band of lighter, vaguer clouds in the distance.

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A Pimp, Marooned

“Gah damn it bitch you better watch your fucking tone when you talk to me girl. Woooh! Girl you gon’ feel all five a’these knuckles against that cocksuckin’ face a’yours. You think you know what busted looks like? Do ya?”

“Five knuckles? Whatta you gon’ do Tony, hit me with your thumb?”

Tony raised his hand in a tiger paw, demonstrating his thumbs prominence in his old pimp hand. He was nodding.

“Come ‘ere bitch, let me change ya life.”

She just looked at him. She and the other girls were standing on a raised, harshly lit platform. Tony stood on the street below in a musty crimson suit.

“I tell you what, listen, hey, look at me when I’m motherfucking talking to you!”

“Shut the fuck up Tony” Another girl called. “You’re scarin’ away the customers.”

“Clarissa that you? Bitch I will kick that fat ass of yours down these stairs. Y’know what your problem is? Diabetes? Yes. Asking for payment in fries? Yes. But what’s really gonna kill you, what I will give my assistance to by giving you a light shove with my foot, is gravity.”

“Yeah fuck you too.”

“Now Shirley, listen, you’re gonna go to the store, -”

“Am I?”

“Alright that’s one slap for interrupting.” He counted this with his thumb. “Go to the store, and get me something befitting of my status, something classy and refined, but big, I’m hungry. Depending on how appropriate your purchase is, I may spare you a few broken limbs.”

“Tony I would shit in my hand and throw it at you but I’m too much of a lady. You aint even worth shit no more. Hah!”

Tony had opened his mouth. He blinked his narrowed eyes, emphasing to all, including himself, that he could not believe what the fuck he had just heard. He adjusted his tie by its knot and started up the stairs.

“Tony…Tony you can’t come up here! Louis! Louis!”

The other girls all began screeching, clamouring for Louis.

As he reached the platform, the large figure of a man appeared from around the corner and stood in front of him. He dwarfed Tony. Tony was faced with the broad chest, the crisp white jacket of young Louis Farigno.

“Tony…” He purred. Tony looked up at a grin. “What are you doing?”

“Did you hear what that bitch Shirley said to me?” He rubbed his palm along his knuckles. “She disrespected me Louis, ME!”

“I know, I know. I heard the whole thing.” He consoled him with smooth gravel. “But I can’t have you harassing my girls.”

“They were my girls!” He pointed a finger at them. Then he turned to look out across the intersection, sunken red under the streetlights, the warehouses, Franky’s bar on the corner, the coke hustlers leaning in the shadows, those ugly squat palm trees on the island of dead grass, his sight almost reaching to the next block along. “This all used to be mine.”

He felt Louis’s heavy hand on his shoulder.

“Watch the suit.” He mumbled.

Louis kept his hand there and walked him further around the platform, away from the girls.

“What’s the matter Tony, you need some money? Huh? You’ve been wearing this for too long, it’s starting to stink. I gotta dispose of things that stink on my turf, you know that.” He spoke softly, pleading to his sensibilities. “If you come around here causing a stink, I’m gonna have to dispose of you.”

Louis pulled Tony around to face him. He tugged Tony’s lapels straight.

“I respect you like a father.” Tony stared blankly at his chest. “Get a new suit.”

Tony descended into the street and walked off in darkness. He heard one of the girls, probably Clarissa call out:

“Bye Bye Tony, you fucking bum!” The statement was punctuated with a loud crack, then a tumble.

“That’s gravity bitch!” He looked up at the stars, feeling the sidewalk’s lifting maroon. Like that fucking movie.

 

 

 

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Been reading some Bukowski

 

She hadn’t replied but I left Friar’s anyway. The air in there was sweet and sweaty, and there were hardly enough black girls. I lurked outside, leaning on some knee-high patio and watched the sprawl of students outside the bar. Feeling self-conscious, a person who reminded me of a friend I held in high regard sitting drunk across the road, I moved on, towards the girl who had been occupying my mind the last week. She wouldn’t be there. I walked in her direction knowing she wouldn’t be there, knowing I would be sitting on the stoop of some dark house across from The Rat and Parrot with its wailing pop anthems.

 

 

 

The half-Asian guy

The urinals

The guy who looked the bassist

The drummer with an injured wrist

All in the men’s bathroom

For over 30 minutes

Unaware of Instagram

The hot chick who used to front for them

My knitted jersey that seemed to bother them

And my knowledge of sum 41 and blink 182

Which soothed them into a state of friendliness

All in the Rat bathroom.

 

 

 

 

Black Dog in the Garden

 

Stare at a spot and the trees merge,

Blurred impressionism,

Different green lights,

Moving differently,

Moving together.

 

The black dog was having a good time on the grass.

Rolling this way and that,

Moaning, snorting, pawing at the ground, stretching in pleasure

Then he moved to the metal gate and sat, watching.

His eyesight was poor.

The violent thing rarely left the confines of the garden,

With its tittering boundary of bright trees,

And concrete walls.

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Clouds of War

 

Dense nuclear plumes

towered in the dry, hot sky.

Stark expressions: the power of war.

 

Later by the window, a cracking

The first shell,

then the slew of ammunition

Battering the roof, glancing off glass,

dousing the parched white walls; ceramic sheen

reflecting vaguely the sky.

 

And green trees dripped

And the white carcass of a spider suckled in vain

At a drop that was stuck the other side of the pane,

And harder it rained,

And darker it became.

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The Old Man Swimming in the Sky

 

Living with a vista for a living room, one develops an affinity for one’s environment. Glass made up roughly three quarters of room’s walls. A panorama of mountains, clouds and sea were beyond them. At 5:17pm, on a Saturday, the sun glared off the wind-muddled water: blinding colourless ultrasound. To its left and right blue could begin to be seen, first as shadows mingling with the light-water, then becoming its own blue, speckled with fine white horses. The lighted water had that lake-like quality, wind swells moving without a frame of reference, static in a camera flash.

To my left was Camps Bay. One has to squint when looking around while writing. I do so because of my poor eyesight, of course, but glancing to the left through a squint seemed writerly. Through the poor eyesight and the panel of glass grimy with pool water residue, I saw Camps Bay and couldn’t think of much to say about it. Cape Town’s own little Miami Beach. People so desperate to make the place work that they put up with the wind. A brief squint at the beach and I could see the black dots of people and the broad tufts of white sea spray that blew back across the turquoise segment of sea visible behind the neighbour’s roof.

More squinting and wincing and sips of a G&T.

Over the sea, just one cloud hangs there, or now two, as the larger one’s fingers parts with the smaller one, asking to be examined. Well firstly, they’re clearly a pair as every time I look up from the page they seem to either be exchanging secret touches or wandering watchfully apart. The smaller one brought to mind a dove, the larger a snail. A strange pair sailing out, infinitely out, in the landless sky. While I wrote this they were shattered and transformed by the forces that be.

I don’t know where they came from. The same mass of clouds hasn’t been able to get past the mountain range. The mass always appears to move, in an ominous fashion, but seems stuck, constipated, clinging to the peaks, reluctant of the seaward journey. Only the brave fly before the writer, brave and bright and confident, stamping a shadow in that sea glare. But my God! The cloud had become a swimmer. An old man swimming against the wind. Grey skeletal shadows, his one arm pulled back completing a stroke, his other burnt off in the sun. Black skull, white hair, white eye. His resolve had broken. He feared the blue infinite, the inevitable transfiguration and disintegration. He swam weakly for that band of sticky clouds above the mountains. Within the first sentences of seeing him he was no more.

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A Wander to the Silver Trees

A creative writing piece that expands on my poem, ‘Silver Trees’.

 

The wind droned. Grey distilled light fell from the clouds upon everything. The sea seemed barren. He stood at the foot of the mountain. The slope was full of silver trees that shook and battled in the wind, glittering. Beyond the crowd of trees were sheer granite faces rising to the peak.

Leaving the footpath, he clambered vertically upwards, gripping shrubs and digging the toes of his boots in the soft, moist soil.  Dead sharp branches from a dead silver tree blocked his path so he zigzagged around it, keeping the mountain-side edges of his boots firm in the ground and leaning a little into the slope. Dew rested on the fynbos and his boots, the lower part of his jeans and his hands were already quite wet.

He had been waiting for a day like this to climb the mountain. A day when the coast was grey, the granite and the silver trees shone and the wind droned. It was hostile, the way the trees fought in the wind, loudly and ceaselessly, yet at the same time it was beautiful. A kind of harshness natural to them and foreign to him. A splendid battle. He wanted to experience it more closely.

The sharp fynbos had lashed the dark brown varnish from his boots revealing the tan leather beneath. He looked up and saw that the sea of green and silver was much closer. A little to his right a tree with pale pink leaves caught his attention. It was a dying silver tree. There was something ominous about it. Its colouring reminded him of bones not yet clean and dry, of a carcass before the vultures descend. After climbing higher he looked back at it. It shivered and bristled, not yet dead.

Upon reaching the treeline he ventured further in and lay down on his back. The sound was deafening. It was as if he was drowning, laying on the seabed, somewhat removed from the tumult of the surface. The branches crashed and swept. He noticed their springiness, how they bounced against the wind. The leaves flickered brightly amongst the sky, dazzling him. He closed his eyes, breathed, and felt himself be tossed in the swell; of sound, of movement, of nature’s violence, and felt safe. Sublime.

After a while he sat up and peered out at the sea, dull and barren, and could make out its distant roar. Dark storm clouds on the horizon broke the sky’s uniform grey. Small cars moved along a road beneath a set of mountain peaks. He’d begun to have enough of all this noise. His journey back down was difficult and cumbersome.


 

Silver Trees Poem: Silver Trees

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Silver Trees

 

Silver leaved trees struggled

In the sea wind which stripped the coastline of sun-kissed colour

and blew across the sky masses of clouds.

Only metallic things shone under this grey light,

Granite boulders, copper flowers, those silver leaves

Flickering on fighting branches; the constant drone

Of the sea wind,

And the cavernous roar of swell.

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Pieces of the Forest

Artwork by Jemma Clamp

Her breaths shook in rapid grasps. Trees approached and blurred past her. She jinked one side to the other, hopping over obstacles that littered the forest floor. She threw herself downhill. Air was dragged desperately into her lungs. She was afraid. She was running for her life.

Trees and branches rushed towards her. She suddenly sprang off her right foot and darted to the left. Through the sounds of her breathing, her heartbeat, and the claustrophobic rustles of the forest another set of footsteps could be heard, purposive, giving chase. FUCK! Her eyes flitted across the procession of trees in search of a possible path to take. The forest had grown denser, the branches reached out in hooks. She forced herself through a thicket and felt a hot sweet sensation as something sharp clawed itself down the length of her back. She yelped and gritted her teeth.  Run! Fucking run! She felt blood wetting the back of her leg.

“Look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.” a voice cooed through the forest. Her head whipped around in shock before returning forward in time to narrowly avoid a tree. “Come back, you’re so much better off with me.”

“GO AWAY!” she screamed, purging her lungs of air before sucking in the next breath.

She was now using her arms, swiping away braches, pushing her way forward, forgetting self-preservation, driven by the strongest sense of fear that blinded all thoughts except that she had to run.

She felt the presence behind her, its fingers barely touched the nape of her neck. She clenched her eyes shut and ducked forward. Nauseating shivers crept across her body. She grabbed at the ground and flung dirt backwards. Premature screams resided in every exhale. She couldn’t escape this nightmare. Tears streamed backwards from the corners of her eyes into her hair.

She opened her bleary eyes and they immediately trained themselves on a spot of light barely visible through the black web of branches. Her body immediately sharpened in its movements. She lunged and leapt, snapping branches under her steps as she thrust forward.

“NO! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!” The voice shrieked.

She burst into the light. Falling to the ground she scrambled blindly, creating distance from the dark forest edge. She stopped. Her head was lowered, she looked at nothing. Her breaths began to steady, the warmer air relaxed her lungs. She was tired. She looked up. Soft beams of light shone through the treetops, cradling the dust that floated in the air. The air was painted in brushstrokes of varying shades of gold. The ground was soft and warm.

She heard rustling behind her and turned to face it. The figure of a girl stood at the edge of the forest. Her arm was held behind the trunk of a tree as if using it for comfort. She seemed unwilling to part from it, caught in a moment of hesitation. Her face was not unlike her own, yet it fluctuated, breaking into fragments, a mosaic that billowed in an internal wind, fluxing and reforming. At first an angry scowl seethed amongst the rippling shards, however gradually a sense of sadness and longing began to appear.

“Please don’t leave me…” Her eyes fluttered on the verge of tears.

A sense of peace seemed to extend the distance between them. She gave the girl a final look of understanding before she turned away and strode amongst the light.

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Life is Like a Bowl of Milky Granola

 

I was guilty of gluttony yesterday. This was proved beyond reasonable doubt when after seconds of supper and the remainder of the tub ice cream, I had made myself a second bowl of milky granola, this time with a crumbled sugar cone. My stomach practically burst with each mouthful. The usual glowing inner-hug I felt after eating was replaced with images of the grey boerewors from earlier looking even greyer as it writhed in the milky mire of my stomach. It was curling and writhing viciously, seemingly intent on rupturing out of my chest as if it was a young Xenomorph. Of course there wasn’t a long, unchewed piece of boerie in my stomach, I didn’t shove the sausage down my oesophagus while using lubricative, melted ice cream to ease the process. I may as well have, I felt disgusted. Not only that, but the crumbled sugar cone went completely soggy and offered nothing in the way of texture or flavour to the dish. I was disappointed. Finding a sitting position that didn’t threaten the dormancy of the alien lifeform was also difficult and so after completing some work I made myself a soothing mug of peppermint tea. Since I was unwell, the tea was medicinal and was therefore administered joylessly.

Yesterday’s overexposure to milky granola prompted a wonderful thought. Food is like life. The more you eat, the less there is on the plate. I will use the bowl of milky, vanilla seed granola (usually made with dates, coconut flakes, a drizzle of honey, and dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg) that prompted this insight to further explain the analogy. As we begin our lives we are faced with the full bowl with only its milky surface actually visible, save a few specks of spices or sesame seeds. The world is unknown, our lives are for the most part sheltered from anything hard or substantial. It is also pure in that sense and the first spoons are delightful, simple, and easy. Vanilla honeyed milk with only the softest resistance of floating sesame seeds testing our milk teeth. Ah, but we grow more inquisitive and brazen. Our spoons delve deeper and we begin to encounter the granola. The granola is harder and more substantial. It requires chewing, an action that like hard work is often its own reward. We become enthralled. The crunches pop with moments of delectable sweetness as unctuous chunks of dates are scooped up in the process. Aahh, the joys of life. It all begins to mix extraordinarily well, the flavours, the textures, all the while wonderfully accompanied by that never-ending pool of milk.

Or, it was never-ending, but as you pause to take a leisurely sip of your grandma’s homemade kombucha tea you have a moment of reflection. You are already half-way, maybe more, maybe less, and a feeling of dread attempts to set in. Here the mind will dictate how the rest of bowl will go. Every spoon from here on out not only depletes the milky granola, but does so at an increasing rate.  You could have never have known but the bowl is conical, the longest years of your life have already happened. You could attempt to bury this thought, let it become a dull but ever-present force that will destabilise that inner peace you had felt.  You could begin to eat it faster, ignoring your body’s pleas to slow down, you don’t care, or you say you don’t as with tears in your eyes you shove mound after mound into your mouth. You barely chew and swallowing becomes painful. Take a breath, there’s still so much left, you made yourself a big bowl after all. Take a spoonful, savour it, that spoon had two date chunks in it, would you have known otherwise?

We are getting close to finishing our bowl of milky granola. We are beginning to feel content and quite full. There are more dates at the bottom. Our smaller, more conscientious spoonfuls do little to slow the milks progress down the sides of the bowl. We have enjoyed it and feel restful. We make peace with the pangs of helplessness and greed for another bowl. We scrape the sides dotted with memories of times before. Our spoon has done all it can, there is no more granola left, just a shallow but richly flavoured puddle of milk at the bottom. Finally with a smile on our face, we grab the bowl with both hands, raise it to our mouth and take our last sip. A dribble of milk runs down the side of our chin and we recline with our eyes closed back into the chair.

I open my eyes and look at my phone. Ah, it’s already 11:00am, a couple more hours and I’ll have some lunch.

Waiting for a Roll

 

“Ey man, the line’s this side.”

I wasn’t having it. “Look, I’ve been waiting here for 30 minutes already. I’m after you. It’s fine”

“You must queue this side though.”

“No I’m not going anywhere, I’m standing here.” I said, not quite slurring.

He looked at me from over his shoulder. I looked at him frankly, then looked back at the simmering skottel of onions and boerewors, watching the lady turn them: pink, raw, boiling in their juices. The onions smelled good. The guy was still staring at me.

“What’s up?”

“You gotta queue over there dude.”

“Yeah I’m not moving. I’m behind you in this line, get your shit and you can leave and I’ll get my fucking roll.” I gestured to the skottel, drunk and expressive.

He glanced over at his friend. “What did you just say?”

“What?”

“Don’t say ‘fucking’ again dude.”

“What?” Smiling, “Fucking, what’s the problem? Hey? Fucking.”

Now he’d turned to face me. I took my hands from my pockets and held them loose and ready.

“What’s the matter? You wanna swing at me? Come lets go across the road if you wanna fucking swing.” His friend was laughing but they weren’t going to try anything. He turned back to the skottel.

And so did I. Still feeling merry and wanting to be on good terms, I started talking to him again.

“Hey. Listen. We could actually be friends.” He was weirded out by the proposal.

The friend chirped in, laughing, “Yeah ____ you guys could be friends.”

“Think about this” I continued earnestly, “Think about this. You were born, and raised, and had your life.” I illustrated the timeline with my hand. “As was I, my own life, nice guy, and now we’re here at this moment. We could be friends. I don’t want any beef. I’ve just been waiting here a long time, that’s it.”

 

 

Later, still waiting for this lady to finish stewing the sausages:

“What’s your name?” He held out his hand.

“Shaun.” Taking it. “And yours?”

“Loyiso.”

“Loyiso? Nice to meet you.”

 

 

Rollin Rollin