Late March in suburban Johannesburg,
The first day of Autumn, yet still the warmth
Of summer and everywhere the deep green
Foliage speaks of the coming of late rains.
Avenues lined with stately London planes,
In gardens oak and slender poplar trees
A most strange chimera of temperate climes
Verdant mark upon grassy Highveld plains.
Spawned in the shadow of Kruger’s Republiek
They struck gold up on the Witwatersrand
And in the crucible of empire
A great conflict engulfed the land.
Yet unscathed from war she did emerge
Mighty Jo’burg, Jozi, the place of gold.
I wish you well my friend, especially now
That your riches lie above the ground
and not within.
I had a sense of deja vu
when old Algiers hove into view.
Tho’ cast about by suburban sprawl
at La Grande Post d’Alger I felt the call.
‘Time out of mind’ I think it’s said,
an echo of a place once tread.
Ancestor or kindred soul perhaps,
linear constructs of time collapse.
A gentle breeze caressed my face
from Port Said and the Med’s embrace.
A subtle mix of many sorts,
Alger beckoned within my thoughts.
Chic young women with well-coiffed hair
amidst shawl-clad ladies not from there,
tho’ a hijab scarf is sometimes worn
by those who Western dress adorn.
If mother France had long vacated
still her influence permeated:
les avenues, les boulevards, les places,
les jardins public dans l’espace.
And such stately apartments row on row,
whose balconies such sights did know.
The ebb and flow of urban life
now as then, both joy and strife.
Embrace the fusion, the Arab cry!
aspirations no different from you nor I.
And even if recollection fades,
now to fair Algiers these accolades.
If any of you have read anything of my self-published writing you will have had a taste of my retrospection and introspection. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about I am essentially touching on the challenges encountered and observations made when one is uprooted from one society and plonked down in another, forcibly or by choice. I have elaborated on this in a previous post. Here I thought I would give flight to some of these thoughts in verse.
This Other Place
Life is spare in sentiment
now that I have travelled to this other place.
Stripped bare of pride and prejudice
I can look within and contemplate
memory, both the essence and the distillate.
Now thirty-five, man not child,
I have outlived my parents both.
Should I have remained, wed perhaps,
in that other place I once called home
where spirit-memories of them roam?
My mother’s ashes are within two casks:
One with her sister in the south,
the other with my brother Dan,
in that other place I once called home
hills of granite, red soils of loam.
My father’s ashes now far dispersed,
scattered in the mighty lake.
I imagine his cremated bones now blackened
settling in the sediment; or then again,
reincarnate in things too small to name.
I have often pondered
what truths and lessons can be taught,
in the recollection of these things,
which arise from sentimental thought?
Regardless of analysis,
It is a world of changing fortunes.
If my very blood could speak,
it would tell you of such things,
the weak made strong, the strong made weak.
Yet my tribe’s not gone,
only assimilated by another
whom to her bosom takes
her wayward children,
and like a mother
forgives our misplaced aspirations.
About a swan, in verse.
I jumped the gate
to better see her sanctuary
a lone swan in a broad pond
beneath the old weir
of stone and rusted gears.
On the other side, upstream,
a family of mallard ducks, a moorhen and a gull,
here but she alone
proud queen of the lower reaches.
Did you see the cygnets?
A voice catches me unawares.
I start, expecting a reproach
but he is alone and means no ill.
I answer ‘no I did not’.
There were eight before,
and then two. He pauses,
his thoughts his own.
Perhaps they have fledged?
He shakes his head.
We discuss the possibilities of predation
by fox or heron.
We will never know. He moves on…
I turn back towards the pond
my heart going out to her,
proud and tragic regent.
Does she feel the pain of loss?
To see a thing
One must look.
To see a place
One must look collectively,
as muscle fibres are to the muscle,
each a component on a quantum palette
related in space and time.
Through my dilated pupil each single photon
again and again, in constant repetition
discharges upon my retinal receptors,
creating an illusion of constancy.
The river flows, we see the reed bow;
Yet it nods and returns, nods and returns.
The ripples shimmer and distort the glassy interface
between air and aqua,
but the composition remains essentially the same.
We see collectively and it is enough, for now,
to see it so and not to consider the uniqueness of the moment,
the infinite variability of trajectory and velocity,
each molecule of water a voyager in the quantum lattice
oblivious to the palette of my mortal mind,
forever moving onwards in accordance
with thermodynamics laws.
I marvel at the minds of cleverer men than I
to deduce such things and to rejoice in their deduction.
Empowered to explore, manipulate and dissect
the palette becomes a mirror to our minds.
But if this is our ultimate trajectory where to the collective?
The palette of river, tree, sky and cloud?
Why should I dissect what is enough
to soothe my beating heart,
my yearning soul?