POEM: in case you were keeping score

BY DINIKA GOVENDER

one
suitcase lies on the bedroom floor, still packed from a trip a year ago.
it now operates as a wardrobe
where contingencies are stored

two
the degrees of separation from the me that I could be
to the me that I must be
– with the me we think I must be getting in the way

three
the number of potential mistakes I met whilst waiting for a double on the rocks
– which is also where you’d find the relationship between my thoughts and actions of late.
on the rocks

four
pieces to make a whole secret-recipe chicken, as well as the size of a perfect family
– except when it splits
and four walls become eight and one pillow becomes two

five
the repayment, in days, on a loan called Weekend that everyone must pay,
save for those who don’t – who are untitled and entitled
or quite simply won’t

six
– of one, half a dozen of the other is what he says
when two things are the same
but actually when two things are inconsequential to him

seven
the number of months it’s taken me to undress myself
of bleached dreams
and spandex goals

eight
the kilometres I can run before my lungs start to burn and my eyes begin to sting
– not from the cold air
– but from trying to run forward in time

nine
the age of our umbilical cords before they got cut
and no one really told us what happened to them
– so we grew up in search of a lifeline

ten
the list i am trained to top
along with nine other kids who also work hard and obey rules
– and isn’t it a fine way of pigeon-holing the rest as fools

eleven
the perfect hour of every day when we can do anything, or nothing at all,
and no one should notice
because we stop measuring at ten – in case you were keeping score

POEM: The Summer of ’69

BY CHRISTINE COATES

That summer we didn’t die,
we cycled out of town into the country,
by a stream we barbecued sausages,
walked across the narrow culvert.
The river dropped away, it seemed a hundred foot below
but I know how memory shrinks.

That summer we didn’t die,
although if my mother knew what we were up to –
we went to the beach all day, our bodies tingling from sea and sun.
A blue-bottle stung me and you took me
to the dunes and peed on my leg –
it was the most natural thing to do.

Later you made us all dinner, and when
the others were sleeping and my mother passed out
from too much wine,
we sat on the bed, your hand up my shorty pyjama top
a whisper of a touch, then an eager puppy pulling at my nipple.
Is this very bad, I asked, that summer we didn’t die.

It was the summer my father died,
my sisters ran feral like baboons when the leader is killed,
but we didn’t die that summer –
we danced to Dickie Loader and the Blue Jeans,
we French kissed and
your hand progressed to inside my panties.

That winter we listened to the moon landing;
getting out of Klerksdorp a greater challenge.
The sixties were ending – you left for a job in Joburg,
called to say you’d bought a red Alpha Spider.
I never saw it – you’d written it off – no scars to show.
I met a boy with a blue Capri and another with an old green Morris;
the next summer was riding with boys in cars,
but that summer we didn’t die.

POEM: Six conversations between lovers

BY HELEN WALNE

I
‘Don’t touch it,’ he says.
‘But it’s a fist. Someone’s fist!’
‘Well, they don’t need it now. It’s probably full of disease.’
‘But what if they do need it? For loving, for punching? What if they walk on all fours?’
‘It’s just a fist,’ he says. ‘Look! There’s a nice tree.’

II
He says: ‘But I didn’t ask for this for Christmas.’
She says: ‘Sorry. I got it wrong.’
‘I asked for “elongate”. You gave me “ungulate”.’
‘It was the only thing they had left.’

III
‘You smell like sweet potato,’ he says.
‘You smell like ginger biscuits,’ she says.
‘Nice earrings.’
‘Thanks. I made them myself.’
‘What are they?’ he asks
‘Shark’s eggs.’

IV
‘What are you doing?’ she asks.
‘Making a machine,’ he replies.
‘Will it save us?’
‘No, it will blow leaves.’

V
‘Just hold on to the pole,’ he says.
‘I don’t want to,’ she says.
‘If you don’t, you’ll fall in.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘Then take my hand,’ he says.
‘Okay.’

VI
He says: ‘So what was I?’
She says: ‘An alien. A star. Then a truck driver from Arkansas. A logger. A leper.
A seaweed philosopher.’
‘Wow! So many things!’
‘And me?’ she asks. ‘What was I?’
‘I don’t know. I can’t see you.’