Aloes at the Dams
There is something human about aloes.
They smell – and feel, if you probe the slimy
parts – like sex. They have cuticular roots
and they object to being planted in rows.
Their welcome is arm-like, sometimes grimy
with white scale, sometimes polished absolutes.
Their process of dying is shameless: top
down (or bottom up). In their multitudes
they elaborate these Dams, not, somehow,
as genus, or variety, or crop,
but as comrades, citizens, darlings, dudes.
Their spaced teeth are not vicious. Then and now,
past and present, something human. The name
invites a greeting… all winter… aflame.
Giving up on the Rains in Mirror Rhyme
When leaves, skittering across tarmac, sound
Like empty cans strung behind a wedding
car; when the day feels papery enough
to go up in flames; when the devil thorn,
harder and sharper than a girl’s tight lip,
not only punctures my bicycle tyre
but engraves lonely hearts on window panes;
when king crickets evacuate the ground
because grass has forgotten how to sing,
how to accommodate billy goat gruff,
his nanny, kids born and yet to be born;
when the knot of longing’s too tight to slip
under stones that crackle like fat on fire,
I put down my pen, give up on the rains.
Looking for You
I walk the pet we shared. We look for you
under the giant monkey thorn that fell,
taking half a kopje with it; pursue
squirrels that might or might not expel
the longing, canine and human. We climb
above the stink of dirty socks, the fret
of humus, to a granite view sublime
(in the old sense). I must will to forget,
if forgetting can be willed. She nuzzles
me, eager to resume our hopeless quest,
past that orange bench where the num-num spills
its blossom. At the Upper Dam we’ll rest
where the dead bodies of platanna bloat,
and two discarded beer bottles float.
Not for Laura*
The lower dam thickens like simmering
soup as the season for showers recedes
into the blue. The emerging sun bleeds
like a bushfire, red alert, shimmering
on the nutrient slime. Hopeful frogs sing
of spawning times to come. Coral tree seeds
may germinate into bracelets of beads.
Updraughts unsettle a dragon fly’s wing.
Last night I heard a border collie howl,
a sparrow-weaver muttered in its nest;
last night the blue moon brought you back to me,
your smile at first, receding to a scowl.
I’m not progressive, I have failed the test:
bin kein bonobo, bin echt chimpanzee.
*This is a Petrarchan sonnet. Laura was Petrarch’s muse.
Beauty is Truth, Truth Death
When I negotiate rocks that divide
and unite upper and lower dams, I
feel that I’m being taken for a ride
on some lopsided insect, a moth fly,
perhaps, or a dark, predaceous water
beetle, tilted, not by geology
but by wind, a regular ripsnorter
at this time of seasonal change; a free-
for-all, between your legs, between liquid
upper and solidifying lower;
earth and sea; there on the threshold, a bid
not to prayer but to pleasure; a knower
finally, of the truth: beauty is death.
So. Put down your pen and take a deep breath.