Poetry Project

No, not, never

A poem should be a place where we are able to say things that we do not say elsewhere.  Ordinary conversation is too trivial, or not trivial enough, to encompass our unspoken thoughts.  We don't say what's really on our minds because we are too shy, or because there is some loudmouth using up all the bandwidth.  In speech too, we feel obliged to say precisely the things  we do not mean, such as that yes, we are well, and yes, we will come.

But we don't want to come, and we are not well.  This month I'm inviting poems on any aspect of negativity: denial, rejection, refusal. Respond to any or all of the prompts below. Send your poems pasted inside the body of an email headed SLiP September poetry workshop to SLiP Project Manager pieter@slipnet.co.za by no later than Monday September 10 2012. Please give your poem a title. I’ll respond with general comments about all the entries, and select a few of the best for publication here.

  1. Write a poem saying 'no' to something you wish you'd said no to.
  2. Write a poem beginning with a negation, for example 'No', 'Not', 'Never'. See, for example, Marianne Moore's 'No Swan So Fine'.
  3. Write a poem in which you refuse to accept a common or clichéd way of thinking.  See, for example, 'Night Club' by Billy Collins and 'Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments' by Archibald MacLeish.
  4. One of the things we need to make an imaginative effort to say no to is the arrival in our minds of suicidal thoughts.  Read these poems before writing your own on the theme: Dorothy Parker's Resumé; Philip Larkin's 'Aubade'; Robert Hass' 'Faint Music'.
  5. Are all nos the same?  Write a poem distinguishing between different types of 'no'.  Or, if you would prefer, different types of 'yes'.
  6. Write a poem which attempts to answer the provocative question: 'What part of NO don't you understand?'

Any poem on any topic.

Untitled
Evan Davies

There’s a break in the folded hills that the early rain never reaches,
where bone-drenched sand begins and style and murder end.
I live there in desert glare, denying God, small-minded smiter,
bungling Lord of botched climate.
I’ve seen termites climb the sky to storms of swifts
fleeing death to meet a second death.
Between these two deaths we thrill - a sunny moment after bloody birth
before a crash or cancer.
Its all there is, among the dark.
Desert showed me this, where life is fierce - God fucked me over
there, till I denied him; then he stopped.
Yes life is fierce, it must be, and so I also charge between the
swifts, as high as I can go,
as agile as I can,
as fierce and eagle-eyed as any Man,
taking love the Lord of Loss has fumbled,
as deep as I can go,
while he deals a blow to someone else,
taking life from animals and plants till mine is taken,
loving dawns and thunderstorms
and moonlight on the covers drawn.

The world is blue and green, from space.
I’ve spent fifteen years in desert glare,
a real desert, with thorns and stones.
I am free now, like a blue swallow
that loops below the eland herds for the green flies downwind,
although,

of all the promise of this blue green world
she I once loved more than all’s the only one now not my friend.

Dr Death’s No
to an invitation to join the medical staff of a hospital in their industrial action
Geoffrey Haresnape

I’m dedicated to this service
look for no reward.
By night or day you’ll find me
gliding  through a ward.

My simple tunic
bears no badge of rank:
yet,  when there’s an august event,
it’s me you have to thank.

I give my all in all
and not just half.
If necessary I  can be
my own skeleton staff.

My lantern jaw is hidden
by  a sombre hood.
I’m the acme of narcosis
and that is good.

In maternity
it  seems  I’m never late
to  unplug the unwatched drip-line
of a neonate.

By adult  beds  I’m  languid,
but more than a few
receive my attention
in  the ICU.

I kill the squiggle on the monitor
or cut the nerve that feeds a writhe
with one, deft sweeping action
of my scythe.

Plead for my co-operation.
Try anything you like.
This is the one and only way
that I will strike.

resume returned
Crystal Warren

thank you for your application
however we regret to inform you
that your request for an internal transfer
to the department of dead
has been declined

while this is an ever-expanding department
and new staff arrive every day
we prefer not to make unsolicited appointments
as this always leads to unfortunate gaps
in the departments departed

we appreciate your interest
and have kept your resume  on file
when a suitable position becomes available
you will be contacted directly
this we guarantee

Ja-Nee
Ross Fleming

YES dear I ACTUALLY DO realise that the light-switches need cleaning
AND I agree absolutely that I should be mowing the lawn right now
if you say so

AND that men are shocking at communication!
And that… Yes. Communi -
We gonna be here till midnight at this rate

(Throws toys out of cot)
Now for crying out loud get over here and help me
undo this jolly (grunt) anorak
NO!  No, er, yes?
Ah great hmmn that IS nice
what could possibly be better tha
oh yes that's
Very Very good ho ho
er careful now
mmyes oh
oh you delicious
er more like that again,
again,
oh!
oh!
oh!
I'll mow the lawn in the morning shall I?

Two Tips for Staying Alive
Yvette Morey

Flee:
to your comforts,
or to the comfort of others.

Get in the bath.
Ghosts cannot penetrate
the warm embrace of water.

Go to where people are.
Pub, supermarket, station
for bus or train. Be rocked,

rubbed, dulled
by these blunt edges,
the providence of proximity.

Jane’s Refusers
Keith Edwards

No, you never relented:
Fanny, Elizabeth, Anne –
you were fiction’s outriders,
its proto-outsiders,
with quiet or spirited
adamant.

Fending your families and
neighbourhood ‘nests of spies’,  you
married for love.
You were the foot that had to put down.

Cape Town Stadium
Keith Edwards

Collapsed lampshade,
dirty white,
the light from you
attracts few moths.

You squat on the wide littoral
like a giant pop art installation,
regarded but unloved.

Unequal:  Cape Town 2012
Keith Edwards

Ours is the poetry of hot water at evening,
of the refuse collected  and
snail-mail delivered.

Ours is the prose of feet steeped in cold water
on rainy winter mornings,
of reeking refuse dumps
reaching for the sky,
of lead hail in all seasons.
Every side of the bed we get out on is the wrong one.

No Say
Christine Biles

Skin turns gray when it dies.
And it can die in any number of ways.
Just like you.
And when the time comes,
you’ll have no say.

They decide.

You’ll never be what is in your heart.
They decide,
so tremble.

Strings pull at your arms, legs.
Strings reach in
through both ears.
They wind their way along the crevasses
of your brain,
so tremble.

Strings stretch down
past clenched teeth,
between your left tonsil
and sensitive uvula,
down your ridged esophagus
and into your heart.

Strings weave inside your veins,
your arteries,
in both atria,
both ventricles.
Your heart beats to the pull
of these strings,
so tremble.

Your blood is taken
drawn up, absorbed by them
these strings.
Your life blood.

You have no say.

They decide,
so tremble.

You’ll never be what is in your heart.
Tremble,
but, by God, be grateful.

Stare at the Stones
Christine Biles

"My name is David."
He puts down his grocery bag
with the loaf of bread sticking out
from the top.
“I have children.”
I nod,
then break
 our short moment of eye contact
to look at the tiny ants
 crawling
over the stones on the ground.
He walks down the steps behind me
leaving his bread
in its bag
on the bench
across from me.
I hear the light splatter 
of his urine
making contact
with the cement down below
– 
behind me, thankfully.
I picture it making a coloured
yet clear
pool.
I picture it splashing upon itself
and up onto his old, worn-out work boots.
I look at the stones on the ground,
at the ants.

He comes back,
sits down across from me.
I stare at the stones.
“I have children.”
His words slightly slur.
A Friday, late morning,
sunny, beautiful day.
Yet his words slightly slur.
The days of rain before have ended,
the clouds have lifted
 and left.
Yet his words slightly slur.
I know he watches me.
Like a challenge
he watches me watch the ground.
I look at him.

A blue work suit – a cover-all,
tattered, faded,
mouth held open
to reveal
stained teeth,
absent teeth,
the gray hair is a layer of fuzz
covering the face,
the whole head,
eyes full of life, expectant.
Stare at the stones.

“I have children.”
Stare at the stones.

“My name is David.”
Stare at the stones.

“Miss, I love my children.”
Stare at the stones.

I know he won’t leave.
I must.

“Please, Miss.”
I gather my things,
take one last glance.
His eyes say no,
no,
please don’t go.
The round, curved, glistening pools
have life,
something within
that lives without,
that has always lived without,
but has LIVED.
They are pure,
childlike 
in their expectant,
 ever-hopeful way.
And they focus on me.

Stare at the stones.

I stand.
“Miss?”
I say,
“I hope you enjoy the sunshine,”
then walk away.

But not yet
Sara P. Dias

In the taste of cloves – so brief a release –
I find a desire for more, but I only added two
so that tomorrow I can add three, or
four when I’m bitter with fragility.

And when the cat’s face turns soft
at a caress, the tingle of electric fur
carries its resonance far into next week
where it curls back around my feet.

There is also the word I don’t yet know
that lies beyond the new moon,
that may gentle this spiky core:
such a word means ‘no’ - and is
obeyed when spoken by women or a child.
Also a kind word to desalt tears …

Next spring, when the white-eye
with its tiny chirp will be here again,
awaiting the next note in a contact call,
I’ll wait with it for its summoning
in the still warmth after the winter storms.

And again today, the mustiness of old walls
blends with the smell of mist and new rain –
the taint of ozone carries with it the
promise of stellar death and birth, and chance.

Red Rucksack
Jana van Niekerk

I have never known how long it would be.
I have never wondered about you unfolding without me.
I have never forgotten myself
never not known you,
waited on a platform
some crazy chasm of mistrust
that we will never part this world with,
nor any other, ever

I never said no.

I never love you when they ask.
I do not remember you in dreams.
I always know just how long it will be
years without you

I will never be away from you

Sitting in an airport
I have never known
just who
might almost miss you.

No, Stay
Mienke du Plessis

When I said goodbye
You couldn't find what I needed to hear you say
(my heartbeat slows,
though not so much as to kill me,
yet not so much as to let me live)
In the loudest silence ever I walked away
All I wanted was ".....No, Stay....."

As when
Mienke du Plessis

no victory so great as when you stole my soul.
no silence quite so loud as when you let it go.
no feeling so justified as when you consumed me from the inside out.
no view so magnificent as when we opened our eyes, what a sight.
not one of these things I'm supposed to experience again,
yet I feel it now, again and again.

Nocturnal Goodbyes
Cara Furniss

The moon packed up and left...
A silent deprivation.
So I pulled the stars into the sky myself that night...

I realized then why my shoulders hurt;

It was the weight of realization
And the softest carpet could not cushion these knees.

Yes, my fingers could touch my toes, they still can
But I realized that I would never come full circle,
Never even make a circle, the most deceiving of shapes...

The moon was mother to me...
And now?
How to save an orphan?

All that was offered to me was a new season
Citrus breath whispered into my hollow ears

Mornings were given as courtesies;
as fondlings for those nights that she made me work.
Mornings that invited me to dinner
To evening soirees
To pasty desserts
To dry sherries over drier conversation.

Each night I looked up again
I asked the clouds to disperse,
to taunt her back.
I received the taunting.
I fed those clouds with my regret, my courtesies formed as insults.

She left because she knew.
She knew I had no notion of her presence
nor a belief in her absence.

< Yes & > No
Yvette Morey

While no can never mean yes,
yes can sometimes mean no.
Believe me, when I don’t say what I mean
I still mean it. As in:
no, it’s fine to bring the dog to dinner,
yes, the carpet has always looked like that.

In any event,
all my less than yeses,
all my more than nos,
amount to the same –
the same
Yes.
The same
No.

Each a sentence in its own right,
an answer that was never in question.

No - You Cannot Take From Me Any Longer
Kevin Craig

No and no and a thousand times, no.
I’ll say it now, filled with the newing courage
of age I did not carry with me then.
I’ll say it with a tongue to lash a hundred yous,
no, a million like you. For those who cannot now,
and could not then, I’ll say it now and ever-after.
No and no and no and no.

You set the knife, the noose, the drug, the gun
inside my unwilling hands. With your touch, your tongue,
your menacing shush. You handed me your baggage,
your guilt to carry, to hold, to swallow…to keep inside.
And me, but a boy, I took it. Willingly.
I toted it with me these thirty years.
I let it kill me again and again,
because I knew I could not be killed, not really.
I knew you had already done the job succinctly,
murdered me with your filthy touch,
your unspeakable lust. You took my life.
Ended the me I could have, should have been.
That boy? He’s gone forever.
The longing inside, the burn, the not-ever-knowing
who I might have been…it twists inside my splintered mind,
like a knife let loose. An ache, a loss, a question never answered.
Today, no longer a boy
with an old man hot of breath
and mad with evil to force me down…
today, I say only one word.
I say it knowing I am lost forever
and I can no longer say it for myself.
But I say it anyway,
for boys, for girls,
for women and for men
who may not have the strength
to say such a simple, potent word.
No and no and no and no.

Partly no
Andrea Buchanan

What part of "NO" don't you understand?
The teeth-touching "nnn", the cartoon gaping “o”?
Perhaps you're confused by local equivocation. You know:
Ja-no-well-so-fine.
It may be you perceive a provocation to persuade me down to a yes,
Or a challenge to charm me to a maybe. May be.
You think this question is smart-arse, rhetorical? In a way, I partly pre-conceived the answer:
The part of “no” you don't understand, is the space severing my will from yours.
Like water and oil. Yes and no. The meniscus is impenetrable.

a thousand words
Crystal Warren

what I would give
to see you again

In the process
Marian Volkwyn

You were never there when i lost a tooth,
Or when i listened to the leaking rain through the roof.

You were never there when i came home,
Everyday, with ripped pantihose
And scabbed knees,
Or even when i planned to go overseas.

You were never there when i fell in love,
Nor when i needed to be lectured out of it,
Because 'love is tough' is what i needed to hear.

You,
simply expected me to know.

You,
were never there to model out the role
I needed to see
you
being an example of.

you were never there,
to teach me how to be
Me,
And how that was enough for the world to see.

you were never there,
to make Me feel like I mattered.
Instead, you kept me feeling
battered
and
bruised.
As if someone else won, and i was just there to lose.

I lost so much the day you left,
More than anything,
i lost myself in the process.

What is it that I like when I say I like a poem?  This month there were eleven poems that stood out for me as achievements, and another eight that I liked enough not to delete, which is to say I had lesser or greater reservations about them. Is my judgement in this matter purely arbitrary, a matter of subjective taste and no more?  How do I like thee?  Let me count the ways:

I like you for your passion, outspokenness and your music, Evan Davies, and your memorable lines:

There’s a break in the folded hills that the early rain never reaches,
where bone-drenched sand begins and style and murder end.
I live there in desert glare, denying God, small-minded smiter,
bungling Lord of botched climate.
I’ve seen termites climb the sky to storms of swifts
fleeing death to meet a second death. Between these two deaths we thrill - a sunny moment after bloody birth
before a crash or cancer.

I like you for your wit, your clever use of voice, persona and point of view, Geoffrey Haresnape, Crystal Warren and Ross Fleming.  (Thank you, Ross, for making an anorak part of a sex scene; thank you Crystal for your deadpan humour; thank you Geoffrey for rhymes that are worthy of the name, your spot-on diction and danse macabre.)

I like you for your patterning of 'Flee...Get...Go', Yvette Morey, for the warm humanity of your tone, and for the sheer usefulness of your advice to suicides. I found a similar warmth and humanity combined with skilful imagery creating a mood of exquisite melancholy in your poem, Sara P.Dias.

I like you for your originality and economy, Keith Edwards, and for writing about Jane Austen's heroines.  And the compassion of 'Unequal'.  And for these important words in 'Cape Town Stadium':

You squat on the wide littoral
like a giant pop art installation,
regarded but unloved.

I like you, Christine Biles, for your patience in creating the long yet never tedious dramatic monologue 'Stare at the Stones'.  You know that the concrete is everything in a poem: we must never resort to the easy summary of abstraction.  I like 'No Say' too, for its beautiful extended metaphor of the human body as a marionette, and for the clever use of repetition to create pattern.

Those were my top eleven, in no particular order.

I also liked, Jana van Niekerk, your paradoxes, though in the end I couldn't work out if the 'I' and the 'you' in the poem were two parts of the self or two different people. These closing lines are beautiful:

Sitting in an airport
I have never known
just who
might almost miss you.

I liked the concentrated emotion in your poems, Mienke du Plessis, and especially these lines:

(my heartbeat slows,
though not so much as to kill me,
yet not so much as to let me live)

I liked you Cara Furniss, for the sudden breakthrough beauty of some of your lines in a poem that still needs tightening:

Mornings were given as courtesies;
as fondlings for those nights that she made me work.
Mornings that invited me to dinner
To evening soirees
To pasty desserts
To dry sherries over drier conversation.

Yvette Morey, I liked these lines so much I thought they'd make a better ending for your '<Yes &> No' poem than the one you currently have:

I still mean it. As in:
no, it’s fine to bring the dog to dinner,
yes, the carpet has always looked like that.

I liked the powerful engine of your anger at stolen childhoods, Kevin Craig and Marian Volkwyn.

I liked you, Andrea Buchanan, for reserving your powerful metaphor for the final line.  Snotklap.

Thanks to everybody who contributed this month, and to all who put up with my judgments.

Submitted Poems


A poem should be a place where we are able to say things that we do not say elsewhere.  Ordinary conversation is too trivial, or not trivial enough, to encompass our unspoken thoughts.  We don't say what's really on our minds because we are too shy, or because there is some loudmouth using up all the bandwidth.  In speech too, we feel obliged to say precisely the things  we do not mean, such as that yes, we are well, and yes, we will come.

But we don't want to come, and we are not well.  This month I'm inviting poems on any aspect of negativity: denial, rejection, refusal. Respond to any or all of the prompts below. Send your poems pasted inside the body of an email headed SLiP September poetry workshop to SLiP Project Manager pieter@slipnet.co.za by no later than Monday September 10 2012. Please give your poem a title. I’ll respond with general comments about all the entries, and select a few of the best for publication here.

  1. Write a poem saying 'no' to something you wish you'd said no to.
  2. Write a poem beginning with a negation, for example 'No', 'Not', 'Never'. See, for example, Marianne Moore's 'No Swan So Fine'.
  3. Write a poem in which you refuse to accept a common or clichéd way of thinking.  See, for example, 'Night Club' by Billy Collins and 'Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments' by Archibald MacLeish.
  4. One of the things we need to make an imaginative effort to say no to is the arrival in our minds of suicidal thoughts.  Read these poems before writing your own on the theme: Dorothy Parker's Resumé; Philip Larkin's 'Aubade'; Robert Hass' 'Faint Music'.
  5. Are all nos the same?  Write a poem distinguishing between different types of 'no'.  Or, if you would prefer, different types of 'yes'.
  6. Write a poem which attempts to answer the provocative question: 'What part of NO don't you understand?'

Any poem on any topic.

Untitled
Evan Davies

There’s a break in the folded hills that the early rain never reaches,
where bone-drenched sand begins and style and murder end.
I live there in desert glare, denying God, small-minded smiter,
bungling Lord of botched climate.
I’ve seen termites climb the sky to storms of swifts
fleeing death to meet a second death.
Between these two deaths we thrill - a sunny moment after bloody birth
before a crash or cancer.
Its all there is, among the dark.
Desert showed me this, where life is fierce - God fucked me over
there, till I denied him; then he stopped.
Yes life is fierce, it must be, and so I also charge between the
swifts, as high as I can go,
as agile as I can,
as fierce and eagle-eyed as any Man,
taking love the Lord of Loss has fumbled,
as deep as I can go,
while he deals a blow to someone else,
taking life from animals and plants till mine is taken,
loving dawns and thunderstorms
and moonlight on the covers drawn.

The world is blue and green, from space.
I’ve spent fifteen years in desert glare,
a real desert, with thorns and stones.
I am free now, like a blue swallow
that loops below the eland herds for the green flies downwind,
although,

of all the promise of this blue green world
she I once loved more than all’s the only one now not my friend.

Dr Death’s No
to an invitation to join the medical staff of a hospital in their industrial action
Geoffrey Haresnape

I’m dedicated to this service
look for no reward.
By night or day you’ll find me
gliding  through a ward.

My simple tunic
bears no badge of rank:
yet,  when there’s an august event,
it’s me you have to thank.

I give my all in all
and not just half.
If necessary I  can be
my own skeleton staff.

My lantern jaw is hidden
by  a sombre hood.
I’m the acme of narcosis
and that is good.

In maternity
it  seems  I’m never late
to  unplug the unwatched drip-line
of a neonate.

By adult  beds  I’m  languid,
but more than a few
receive my attention
in  the ICU.

I kill the squiggle on the monitor
or cut the nerve that feeds a writhe
with one, deft sweeping action
of my scythe.

Plead for my co-operation.
Try anything you like.
This is the one and only way
that I will strike.

resume returned
Crystal Warren

thank you for your application
however we regret to inform you
that your request for an internal transfer
to the department of dead
has been declined

while this is an ever-expanding department
and new staff arrive every day
we prefer not to make unsolicited appointments
as this always leads to unfortunate gaps
in the departments departed

we appreciate your interest
and have kept your resume  on file
when a suitable position becomes available
you will be contacted directly
this we guarantee

Ja-Nee
Ross Fleming

YES dear I ACTUALLY DO realise that the light-switches need cleaning
AND I agree absolutely that I should be mowing the lawn right now
if you say so

AND that men are shocking at communication!
And that… Yes. Communi -
We gonna be here till midnight at this rate

(Throws toys out of cot)
Now for crying out loud get over here and help me
undo this jolly (grunt) anorak
NO!  No, er, yes?
Ah great hmmn that IS nice
what could possibly be better tha
oh yes that's
Very Very good ho ho
er careful now
mmyes oh
oh you delicious
er more like that again,
again,
oh!
oh!
oh!
I'll mow the lawn in the morning shall I?

Two Tips for Staying Alive
Yvette Morey

Flee:
to your comforts,
or to the comfort of others.

Get in the bath.
Ghosts cannot penetrate
the warm embrace of water.

Go to where people are.
Pub, supermarket, station
for bus or train. Be rocked,

rubbed, dulled
by these blunt edges,
the providence of proximity.

Jane’s Refusers
Keith Edwards

No, you never relented:
Fanny, Elizabeth, Anne –
you were fiction’s outriders,
its proto-outsiders,
with quiet or spirited
adamant.

Fending your families and
neighbourhood ‘nests of spies’,  you
married for love.
You were the foot that had to put down.

Cape Town Stadium
Keith Edwards

Collapsed lampshade,
dirty white,
the light from you
attracts few moths.

You squat on the wide littoral
like a giant pop art installation,
regarded but unloved.

Unequal:  Cape Town 2012
Keith Edwards

Ours is the poetry of hot water at evening,
of the refuse collected  and
snail-mail delivered.

Ours is the prose of feet steeped in cold water
on rainy winter mornings,
of reeking refuse dumps
reaching for the sky,
of lead hail in all seasons.
Every side of the bed we get out on is the wrong one.

No Say
Christine Biles

Skin turns gray when it dies.
And it can die in any number of ways.
Just like you.
And when the time comes,
you’ll have no say.

They decide.

You’ll never be what is in your heart.
They decide,
so tremble.

Strings pull at your arms, legs.
Strings reach in
through both ears.
They wind their way along the crevasses
of your brain,
so tremble.

Strings stretch down
past clenched teeth,
between your left tonsil
and sensitive uvula,
down your ridged esophagus
and into your heart.

Strings weave inside your veins,
your arteries,
in both atria,
both ventricles.
Your heart beats to the pull
of these strings,
so tremble.

Your blood is taken
drawn up, absorbed by them
these strings.
Your life blood.

You have no say.

They decide,
so tremble.

You’ll never be what is in your heart.
Tremble,
but, by God, be grateful.

Stare at the Stones
Christine Biles

"My name is David."
He puts down his grocery bag
with the loaf of bread sticking out
from the top.
“I have children.”
I nod,
then break
 our short moment of eye contact
to look at the tiny ants
 crawling
over the stones on the ground.
He walks down the steps behind me
leaving his bread
in its bag
on the bench
across from me.
I hear the light splatter 
of his urine
making contact
with the cement down below
– 
behind me, thankfully.
I picture it making a coloured
yet clear
pool.
I picture it splashing upon itself
and up onto his old, worn-out work boots.
I look at the stones on the ground,
at the ants.

He comes back,
sits down across from me.
I stare at the stones.
“I have children.”
His words slightly slur.
A Friday, late morning,
sunny, beautiful day.
Yet his words slightly slur.
The days of rain before have ended,
the clouds have lifted
 and left.
Yet his words slightly slur.
I know he watches me.
Like a challenge
he watches me watch the ground.
I look at him.

A blue work suit – a cover-all,
tattered, faded,
mouth held open
to reveal
stained teeth,
absent teeth,
the gray hair is a layer of fuzz
covering the face,
the whole head,
eyes full of life, expectant.
Stare at the stones.

“I have children.”
Stare at the stones.

“My name is David.”
Stare at the stones.

“Miss, I love my children.”
Stare at the stones.

I know he won’t leave.
I must.

“Please, Miss.”
I gather my things,
take one last glance.
His eyes say no,
no,
please don’t go.
The round, curved, glistening pools
have life,
something within
that lives without,
that has always lived without,
but has LIVED.
They are pure,
childlike 
in their expectant,
 ever-hopeful way.
And they focus on me.

Stare at the stones.

I stand.
“Miss?”
I say,
“I hope you enjoy the sunshine,”
then walk away.

But not yet
Sara P. Dias

In the taste of cloves – so brief a release –
I find a desire for more, but I only added two
so that tomorrow I can add three, or
four when I’m bitter with fragility.

And when the cat’s face turns soft
at a caress, the tingle of electric fur
carries its resonance far into next week
where it curls back around my feet.

There is also the word I don’t yet know
that lies beyond the new moon,
that may gentle this spiky core:
such a word means ‘no’ - and is
obeyed when spoken by women or a child.
Also a kind word to desalt tears …

Next spring, when the white-eye
with its tiny chirp will be here again,
awaiting the next note in a contact call,
I’ll wait with it for its summoning
in the still warmth after the winter storms.

And again today, the mustiness of old walls
blends with the smell of mist and new rain –
the taint of ozone carries with it the
promise of stellar death and birth, and chance.

Red Rucksack
Jana van Niekerk

I have never known how long it would be.
I have never wondered about you unfolding without me.
I have never forgotten myself
never not known you,
waited on a platform
some crazy chasm of mistrust
that we will never part this world with,
nor any other, ever

I never said no.

I never love you when they ask.
I do not remember you in dreams.
I always know just how long it will be
years without you

I will never be away from you

Sitting in an airport
I have never known
just who
might almost miss you.

No, Stay
Mienke du Plessis

When I said goodbye
You couldn't find what I needed to hear you say
(my heartbeat slows,
though not so much as to kill me,
yet not so much as to let me live)
In the loudest silence ever I walked away
All I wanted was ".....No, Stay....."

As when
Mienke du Plessis

no victory so great as when you stole my soul.
no silence quite so loud as when you let it go.
no feeling so justified as when you consumed me from the inside out.
no view so magnificent as when we opened our eyes, what a sight.
not one of these things I'm supposed to experience again,
yet I feel it now, again and again.

Nocturnal Goodbyes
Cara Furniss

The moon packed up and left...
A silent deprivation.
So I pulled the stars into the sky myself that night...

I realized then why my shoulders hurt;

It was the weight of realization
And the softest carpet could not cushion these knees.

Yes, my fingers could touch my toes, they still can
But I realized that I would never come full circle,
Never even make a circle, the most deceiving of shapes...

The moon was mother to me...
And now?
How to save an orphan?

All that was offered to me was a new season
Citrus breath whispered into my hollow ears

Mornings were given as courtesies;
as fondlings for those nights that she made me work.
Mornings that invited me to dinner
To evening soirees
To pasty desserts
To dry sherries over drier conversation.

Each night I looked up again
I asked the clouds to disperse,
to taunt her back.
I received the taunting.
I fed those clouds with my regret, my courtesies formed as insults.

She left because she knew.
She knew I had no notion of her presence
nor a belief in her absence.

< Yes & > No
Yvette Morey

While no can never mean yes,
yes can sometimes mean no.
Believe me, when I don’t say what I mean
I still mean it. As in:
no, it’s fine to bring the dog to dinner,
yes, the carpet has always looked like that.

In any event,
all my less than yeses,
all my more than nos,
amount to the same –
the same
Yes.
The same
No.

Each a sentence in its own right,
an answer that was never in question.

No - You Cannot Take From Me Any Longer
Kevin Craig

No and no and a thousand times, no.
I’ll say it now, filled with the newing courage
of age I did not carry with me then.
I’ll say it with a tongue to lash a hundred yous,
no, a million like you. For those who cannot now,
and could not then, I’ll say it now and ever-after.
No and no and no and no.

You set the knife, the noose, the drug, the gun
inside my unwilling hands. With your touch, your tongue,
your menacing shush. You handed me your baggage,
your guilt to carry, to hold, to swallow…to keep inside.
And me, but a boy, I took it. Willingly.
I toted it with me these thirty years.
I let it kill me again and again,
because I knew I could not be killed, not really.
I knew you had already done the job succinctly,
murdered me with your filthy touch,
your unspeakable lust. You took my life.
Ended the me I could have, should have been.
That boy? He’s gone forever.
The longing inside, the burn, the not-ever-knowing
who I might have been…it twists inside my splintered mind,
like a knife let loose. An ache, a loss, a question never answered.
Today, no longer a boy
with an old man hot of breath
and mad with evil to force me down…
today, I say only one word.
I say it knowing I am lost forever
and I can no longer say it for myself.
But I say it anyway,
for boys, for girls,
for women and for men
who may not have the strength
to say such a simple, potent word.
No and no and no and no.

Partly no
Andrea Buchanan

What part of "NO" don't you understand?
The teeth-touching "nnn", the cartoon gaping “o”?
Perhaps you're confused by local equivocation. You know:
Ja-no-well-so-fine.
It may be you perceive a provocation to persuade me down to a yes,
Or a challenge to charm me to a maybe. May be.
You think this question is smart-arse, rhetorical? In a way, I partly pre-conceived the answer:
The part of “no” you don't understand, is the space severing my will from yours.
Like water and oil. Yes and no. The meniscus is impenetrable.

a thousand words
Crystal Warren

what I would give
to see you again

In the process
Marian Volkwyn

You were never there when i lost a tooth,
Or when i listened to the leaking rain through the roof.

You were never there when i came home,
Everyday, with ripped pantihose
And scabbed knees,
Or even when i planned to go overseas.

You were never there when i fell in love,
Nor when i needed to be lectured out of it,
Because 'love is tough' is what i needed to hear.

You,
simply expected me to know.

You,
were never there to model out the role
I needed to see
you
being an example of.

you were never there,
to teach me how to be
Me,
And how that was enough for the world to see.

you were never there,
to make Me feel like I mattered.
Instead, you kept me feeling
battered
and
bruised.
As if someone else won, and i was just there to lose.

I lost so much the day you left,
More than anything,
i lost myself in the process.

What is it that I like when I say I like a poem?  This month there were eleven poems that stood out for me as achievements, and another eight that I liked enough not to delete, which is to say I had lesser or greater reservations about them. Is my judgement in this matter purely arbitrary, a matter of subjective taste and no more?  How do I like thee?  Let me count the ways:

I like you for your passion, outspokenness and your music, Evan Davies, and your memorable lines:

There’s a break in the folded hills that the early rain never reaches,
where bone-drenched sand begins and style and murder end.
I live there in desert glare, denying God, small-minded smiter,
bungling Lord of botched climate.
I’ve seen termites climb the sky to storms of swifts
fleeing death to meet a second death. Between these two deaths we thrill - a sunny moment after bloody birth
before a crash or cancer.

I like you for your wit, your clever use of voice, persona and point of view, Geoffrey Haresnape, Crystal Warren and Ross Fleming.  (Thank you, Ross, for making an anorak part of a sex scene; thank you Crystal for your deadpan humour; thank you Geoffrey for rhymes that are worthy of the name, your spot-on diction and danse macabre.)

I like you for your patterning of 'Flee...Get...Go', Yvette Morey, for the warm humanity of your tone, and for the sheer usefulness of your advice to suicides. I found a similar warmth and humanity combined with skilful imagery creating a mood of exquisite melancholy in your poem, Sara P.Dias.

I like you for your originality and economy, Keith Edwards, and for writing about Jane Austen's heroines.  And the compassion of 'Unequal'.  And for these important words in 'Cape Town Stadium':

You squat on the wide littoral
like a giant pop art installation,
regarded but unloved.

I like you, Christine Biles, for your patience in creating the long yet never tedious dramatic monologue 'Stare at the Stones'.  You know that the concrete is everything in a poem: we must never resort to the easy summary of abstraction.  I like 'No Say' too, for its beautiful extended metaphor of the human body as a marionette, and for the clever use of repetition to create pattern.

Those were my top eleven, in no particular order.

I also liked, Jana van Niekerk, your paradoxes, though in the end I couldn't work out if the 'I' and the 'you' in the poem were two parts of the self or two different people. These closing lines are beautiful:

Sitting in an airport
I have never known
just who
might almost miss you.

I liked the concentrated emotion in your poems, Mienke du Plessis, and especially these lines:

(my heartbeat slows,
though not so much as to kill me,
yet not so much as to let me live)

I liked you Cara Furniss, for the sudden breakthrough beauty of some of your lines in a poem that still needs tightening:

Mornings were given as courtesies;
as fondlings for those nights that she made me work.
Mornings that invited me to dinner
To evening soirees
To pasty desserts
To dry sherries over drier conversation.

Yvette Morey, I liked these lines so much I thought they'd make a better ending for your '<Yes &> No' poem than the one you currently have:

I still mean it. As in:
no, it’s fine to bring the dog to dinner,
yes, the carpet has always looked like that.

I liked the powerful engine of your anger at stolen childhoods, Kevin Craig and Marian Volkwyn.

I liked you, Andrea Buchanan, for reserving your powerful metaphor for the final line.  Snotklap.

Thanks to everybody who contributed this month, and to all who put up with my judgments.

Feedback


A poem should be a place where we are able to say things that we do not say elsewhere.  Ordinary conversation is too trivial, or not trivial enough, to encompass our unspoken thoughts.  We don't say what's really on our minds because we are too shy, or because there is some loudmouth using up all the bandwidth.  In speech too, we feel obliged to say precisely the things  we do not mean, such as that yes, we are well, and yes, we will come.

But we don't want to come, and we are not well.  This month I'm inviting poems on any aspect of negativity: denial, rejection, refusal. Respond to any or all of the prompts below. Send your poems pasted inside the body of an email headed SLiP September poetry workshop to SLiP Project Manager pieter@slipnet.co.za by no later than Monday September 10 2012. Please give your poem a title. I’ll respond with general comments about all the entries, and select a few of the best for publication here.

  1. Write a poem saying 'no' to something you wish you'd said no to.
  2. Write a poem beginning with a negation, for example 'No', 'Not', 'Never'. See, for example, Marianne Moore's 'No Swan So Fine'.
  3. Write a poem in which you refuse to accept a common or clichéd way of thinking.  See, for example, 'Night Club' by Billy Collins and 'Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments' by Archibald MacLeish.
  4. One of the things we need to make an imaginative effort to say no to is the arrival in our minds of suicidal thoughts.  Read these poems before writing your own on the theme: Dorothy Parker's Resumé; Philip Larkin's 'Aubade'; Robert Hass' 'Faint Music'.
  5. Are all nos the same?  Write a poem distinguishing between different types of 'no'.  Or, if you would prefer, different types of 'yes'.
  6. Write a poem which attempts to answer the provocative question: 'What part of NO don't you understand?'

Any poem on any topic.

Untitled
Evan Davies

There’s a break in the folded hills that the early rain never reaches,
where bone-drenched sand begins and style and murder end.
I live there in desert glare, denying God, small-minded smiter,
bungling Lord of botched climate.
I’ve seen termites climb the sky to storms of swifts
fleeing death to meet a second death.
Between these two deaths we thrill - a sunny moment after bloody birth
before a crash or cancer.
Its all there is, among the dark.
Desert showed me this, where life is fierce - God fucked me over
there, till I denied him; then he stopped.
Yes life is fierce, it must be, and so I also charge between the
swifts, as high as I can go,
as agile as I can,
as fierce and eagle-eyed as any Man,
taking love the Lord of Loss has fumbled,
as deep as I can go,
while he deals a blow to someone else,
taking life from animals and plants till mine is taken,
loving dawns and thunderstorms
and moonlight on the covers drawn.

The world is blue and green, from space.
I’ve spent fifteen years in desert glare,
a real desert, with thorns and stones.
I am free now, like a blue swallow
that loops below the eland herds for the green flies downwind,
although,

of all the promise of this blue green world
she I once loved more than all’s the only one now not my friend.

Dr Death’s No
to an invitation to join the medical staff of a hospital in their industrial action
Geoffrey Haresnape

I’m dedicated to this service
look for no reward.
By night or day you’ll find me
gliding  through a ward.

My simple tunic
bears no badge of rank:
yet,  when there’s an august event,
it’s me you have to thank.

I give my all in all
and not just half.
If necessary I  can be
my own skeleton staff.

My lantern jaw is hidden
by  a sombre hood.
I’m the acme of narcosis
and that is good.

In maternity
it  seems  I’m never late
to  unplug the unwatched drip-line
of a neonate.

By adult  beds  I’m  languid,
but more than a few
receive my attention
in  the ICU.

I kill the squiggle on the monitor
or cut the nerve that feeds a writhe
with one, deft sweeping action
of my scythe.

Plead for my co-operation.
Try anything you like.
This is the one and only way
that I will strike.

resume returned
Crystal Warren

thank you for your application
however we regret to inform you
that your request for an internal transfer
to the department of dead
has been declined

while this is an ever-expanding department
and new staff arrive every day
we prefer not to make unsolicited appointments
as this always leads to unfortunate gaps
in the departments departed

we appreciate your interest
and have kept your resume  on file
when a suitable position becomes available
you will be contacted directly
this we guarantee

Ja-Nee
Ross Fleming

YES dear I ACTUALLY DO realise that the light-switches need cleaning
AND I agree absolutely that I should be mowing the lawn right now
if you say so

AND that men are shocking at communication!
And that… Yes. Communi -
We gonna be here till midnight at this rate

(Throws toys out of cot)
Now for crying out loud get over here and help me
undo this jolly (grunt) anorak
NO!  No, er, yes?
Ah great hmmn that IS nice
what could possibly be better tha
oh yes that's
Very Very good ho ho
er careful now
mmyes oh
oh you delicious
er more like that again,
again,
oh!
oh!
oh!
I'll mow the lawn in the morning shall I?

Two Tips for Staying Alive
Yvette Morey

Flee:
to your comforts,
or to the comfort of others.

Get in the bath.
Ghosts cannot penetrate
the warm embrace of water.

Go to where people are.
Pub, supermarket, station
for bus or train. Be rocked,

rubbed, dulled
by these blunt edges,
the providence of proximity.

Jane’s Refusers
Keith Edwards

No, you never relented:
Fanny, Elizabeth, Anne –
you were fiction’s outriders,
its proto-outsiders,
with quiet or spirited
adamant.

Fending your families and
neighbourhood ‘nests of spies’,  you
married for love.
You were the foot that had to put down.

Cape Town Stadium
Keith Edwards

Collapsed lampshade,
dirty white,
the light from you
attracts few moths.

You squat on the wide littoral
like a giant pop art installation,
regarded but unloved.

Unequal:  Cape Town 2012
Keith Edwards

Ours is the poetry of hot water at evening,
of the refuse collected  and
snail-mail delivered.

Ours is the prose of feet steeped in cold water
on rainy winter mornings,
of reeking refuse dumps
reaching for the sky,
of lead hail in all seasons.
Every side of the bed we get out on is the wrong one.

No Say
Christine Biles

Skin turns gray when it dies.
And it can die in any number of ways.
Just like you.
And when the time comes,
you’ll have no say.

They decide.

You’ll never be what is in your heart.
They decide,
so tremble.

Strings pull at your arms, legs.
Strings reach in
through both ears.
They wind their way along the crevasses
of your brain,
so tremble.

Strings stretch down
past clenched teeth,
between your left tonsil
and sensitive uvula,
down your ridged esophagus
and into your heart.

Strings weave inside your veins,
your arteries,
in both atria,
both ventricles.
Your heart beats to the pull
of these strings,
so tremble.

Your blood is taken
drawn up, absorbed by them
these strings.
Your life blood.

You have no say.

They decide,
so tremble.

You’ll never be what is in your heart.
Tremble,
but, by God, be grateful.

Stare at the Stones
Christine Biles

"My name is David."
He puts down his grocery bag
with the loaf of bread sticking out
from the top.
“I have children.”
I nod,
then break
 our short moment of eye contact
to look at the tiny ants
 crawling
over the stones on the ground.
He walks down the steps behind me
leaving his bread
in its bag
on the bench
across from me.
I hear the light splatter 
of his urine
making contact
with the cement down below
– 
behind me, thankfully.
I picture it making a coloured
yet clear
pool.
I picture it splashing upon itself
and up onto his old, worn-out work boots.
I look at the stones on the ground,
at the ants.

He comes back,
sits down across from me.
I stare at the stones.
“I have children.”
His words slightly slur.
A Friday, late morning,
sunny, beautiful day.
Yet his words slightly slur.
The days of rain before have ended,
the clouds have lifted
 and left.
Yet his words slightly slur.
I know he watches me.
Like a challenge
he watches me watch the ground.
I look at him.

A blue work suit – a cover-all,
tattered, faded,
mouth held open
to reveal
stained teeth,
absent teeth,
the gray hair is a layer of fuzz
covering the face,
the whole head,
eyes full of life, expectant.
Stare at the stones.

“I have children.”
Stare at the stones.

“My name is David.”
Stare at the stones.

“Miss, I love my children.”
Stare at the stones.

I know he won’t leave.
I must.

“Please, Miss.”
I gather my things,
take one last glance.
His eyes say no,
no,
please don’t go.
The round, curved, glistening pools
have life,
something within
that lives without,
that has always lived without,
but has LIVED.
They are pure,
childlike 
in their expectant,
 ever-hopeful way.
And they focus on me.

Stare at the stones.

I stand.
“Miss?”
I say,
“I hope you enjoy the sunshine,”
then walk away.

But not yet
Sara P. Dias

In the taste of cloves – so brief a release –
I find a desire for more, but I only added two
so that tomorrow I can add three, or
four when I’m bitter with fragility.

And when the cat’s face turns soft
at a caress, the tingle of electric fur
carries its resonance far into next week
where it curls back around my feet.

There is also the word I don’t yet know
that lies beyond the new moon,
that may gentle this spiky core:
such a word means ‘no’ - and is
obeyed when spoken by women or a child.
Also a kind word to desalt tears …

Next spring, when the white-eye
with its tiny chirp will be here again,
awaiting the next note in a contact call,
I’ll wait with it for its summoning
in the still warmth after the winter storms.

And again today, the mustiness of old walls
blends with the smell of mist and new rain –
the taint of ozone carries with it the
promise of stellar death and birth, and chance.

Red Rucksack
Jana van Niekerk

I have never known how long it would be.
I have never wondered about you unfolding without me.
I have never forgotten myself
never not known you,
waited on a platform
some crazy chasm of mistrust
that we will never part this world with,
nor any other, ever

I never said no.

I never love you when they ask.
I do not remember you in dreams.
I always know just how long it will be
years without you

I will never be away from you

Sitting in an airport
I have never known
just who
might almost miss you.

No, Stay
Mienke du Plessis

When I said goodbye
You couldn't find what I needed to hear you say
(my heartbeat slows,
though not so much as to kill me,
yet not so much as to let me live)
In the loudest silence ever I walked away
All I wanted was ".....No, Stay....."

As when
Mienke du Plessis

no victory so great as when you stole my soul.
no silence quite so loud as when you let it go.
no feeling so justified as when you consumed me from the inside out.
no view so magnificent as when we opened our eyes, what a sight.
not one of these things I'm supposed to experience again,
yet I feel it now, again and again.

Nocturnal Goodbyes
Cara Furniss

The moon packed up and left...
A silent deprivation.
So I pulled the stars into the sky myself that night...

I realized then why my shoulders hurt;

It was the weight of realization
And the softest carpet could not cushion these knees.

Yes, my fingers could touch my toes, they still can
But I realized that I would never come full circle,
Never even make a circle, the most deceiving of shapes...

The moon was mother to me...
And now?
How to save an orphan?

All that was offered to me was a new season
Citrus breath whispered into my hollow ears

Mornings were given as courtesies;
as fondlings for those nights that she made me work.
Mornings that invited me to dinner
To evening soirees
To pasty desserts
To dry sherries over drier conversation.

Each night I looked up again
I asked the clouds to disperse,
to taunt her back.
I received the taunting.
I fed those clouds with my regret, my courtesies formed as insults.

She left because she knew.
She knew I had no notion of her presence
nor a belief in her absence.

< Yes & > No
Yvette Morey

While no can never mean yes,
yes can sometimes mean no.
Believe me, when I don’t say what I mean
I still mean it. As in:
no, it’s fine to bring the dog to dinner,
yes, the carpet has always looked like that.

In any event,
all my less than yeses,
all my more than nos,
amount to the same –
the same
Yes.
The same
No.

Each a sentence in its own right,
an answer that was never in question.

No - You Cannot Take From Me Any Longer
Kevin Craig

No and no and a thousand times, no.
I’ll say it now, filled with the newing courage
of age I did not carry with me then.
I’ll say it with a tongue to lash a hundred yous,
no, a million like you. For those who cannot now,
and could not then, I’ll say it now and ever-after.
No and no and no and no.

You set the knife, the noose, the drug, the gun
inside my unwilling hands. With your touch, your tongue,
your menacing shush. You handed me your baggage,
your guilt to carry, to hold, to swallow…to keep inside.
And me, but a boy, I took it. Willingly.
I toted it with me these thirty years.
I let it kill me again and again,
because I knew I could not be killed, not really.
I knew you had already done the job succinctly,
murdered me with your filthy touch,
your unspeakable lust. You took my life.
Ended the me I could have, should have been.
That boy? He’s gone forever.
The longing inside, the burn, the not-ever-knowing
who I might have been…it twists inside my splintered mind,
like a knife let loose. An ache, a loss, a question never answered.
Today, no longer a boy
with an old man hot of breath
and mad with evil to force me down…
today, I say only one word.
I say it knowing I am lost forever
and I can no longer say it for myself.
But I say it anyway,
for boys, for girls,
for women and for men
who may not have the strength
to say such a simple, potent word.
No and no and no and no.

Partly no
Andrea Buchanan

What part of "NO" don't you understand?
The teeth-touching "nnn", the cartoon gaping “o”?
Perhaps you're confused by local equivocation. You know:
Ja-no-well-so-fine.
It may be you perceive a provocation to persuade me down to a yes,
Or a challenge to charm me to a maybe. May be.
You think this question is smart-arse, rhetorical? In a way, I partly pre-conceived the answer:
The part of “no” you don't understand, is the space severing my will from yours.
Like water and oil. Yes and no. The meniscus is impenetrable.

a thousand words
Crystal Warren

what I would give
to see you again

In the process
Marian Volkwyn

You were never there when i lost a tooth,
Or when i listened to the leaking rain through the roof.

You were never there when i came home,
Everyday, with ripped pantihose
And scabbed knees,
Or even when i planned to go overseas.

You were never there when i fell in love,
Nor when i needed to be lectured out of it,
Because 'love is tough' is what i needed to hear.

You,
simply expected me to know.

You,
were never there to model out the role
I needed to see
you
being an example of.

you were never there,
to teach me how to be
Me,
And how that was enough for the world to see.

you were never there,
to make Me feel like I mattered.
Instead, you kept me feeling
battered
and
bruised.
As if someone else won, and i was just there to lose.

I lost so much the day you left,
More than anything,
i lost myself in the process.

What is it that I like when I say I like a poem?  This month there were eleven poems that stood out for me as achievements, and another eight that I liked enough not to delete, which is to say I had lesser or greater reservations about them. Is my judgement in this matter purely arbitrary, a matter of subjective taste and no more?  How do I like thee?  Let me count the ways:

I like you for your passion, outspokenness and your music, Evan Davies, and your memorable lines:

There’s a break in the folded hills that the early rain never reaches,
where bone-drenched sand begins and style and murder end.
I live there in desert glare, denying God, small-minded smiter,
bungling Lord of botched climate.
I’ve seen termites climb the sky to storms of swifts
fleeing death to meet a second death. Between these two deaths we thrill - a sunny moment after bloody birth
before a crash or cancer.

I like you for your wit, your clever use of voice, persona and point of view, Geoffrey Haresnape, Crystal Warren and Ross Fleming.  (Thank you, Ross, for making an anorak part of a sex scene; thank you Crystal for your deadpan humour; thank you Geoffrey for rhymes that are worthy of the name, your spot-on diction and danse macabre.)

I like you for your patterning of 'Flee...Get...Go', Yvette Morey, for the warm humanity of your tone, and for the sheer usefulness of your advice to suicides. I found a similar warmth and humanity combined with skilful imagery creating a mood of exquisite melancholy in your poem, Sara P.Dias.

I like you for your originality and economy, Keith Edwards, and for writing about Jane Austen's heroines.  And the compassion of 'Unequal'.  And for these important words in 'Cape Town Stadium':

You squat on the wide littoral
like a giant pop art installation,
regarded but unloved.

I like you, Christine Biles, for your patience in creating the long yet never tedious dramatic monologue 'Stare at the Stones'.  You know that the concrete is everything in a poem: we must never resort to the easy summary of abstraction.  I like 'No Say' too, for its beautiful extended metaphor of the human body as a marionette, and for the clever use of repetition to create pattern.

Those were my top eleven, in no particular order.

I also liked, Jana van Niekerk, your paradoxes, though in the end I couldn't work out if the 'I' and the 'you' in the poem were two parts of the self or two different people. These closing lines are beautiful:

Sitting in an airport
I have never known
just who
might almost miss you.

I liked the concentrated emotion in your poems, Mienke du Plessis, and especially these lines:

(my heartbeat slows,
though not so much as to kill me,
yet not so much as to let me live)

I liked you Cara Furniss, for the sudden breakthrough beauty of some of your lines in a poem that still needs tightening:

Mornings were given as courtesies;
as fondlings for those nights that she made me work.
Mornings that invited me to dinner
To evening soirees
To pasty desserts
To dry sherries over drier conversation.

Yvette Morey, I liked these lines so much I thought they'd make a better ending for your '<Yes &> No' poem than the one you currently have:

I still mean it. As in:
no, it’s fine to bring the dog to dinner,
yes, the carpet has always looked like that.

I liked the powerful engine of your anger at stolen childhoods, Kevin Craig and Marian Volkwyn.

I liked you, Andrea Buchanan, for reserving your powerful metaphor for the final line.  Snotklap.

Thanks to everybody who contributed this month, and to all who put up with my judgments.

Comments are closed.