Gills appear on either side of the throat;
liquid slowly webs my toes and fingers;
then it’s the spiraling dance
downward to the algae-curtained house
of rock and silt
pulsing its diatoms
between my teeth
through the strands of my hair,
around my legs – locating every space
where breath might exist –
and there’s still time to make it okay,
leave behind the broken plates, the shouting,
I know, I know, you were only venting,
but look where it’s led,
back, as always, to the source,
where she promised I would find it.
All the leaves become fish,
floating, like underwater autumn,
this brown bedded mulch;
and the sinking,
All kinds of things are happening to me.
Skin’s becoming scaly, forehead a terrain of anthills,
and my feet are stiffening as though belonging to a corpse.
Hair’s falling out of course. And there’s my mind.
I try to read, but words swirl
in little whirlwinds on the page;
even when they’re behaving, I feel
I’m gazing at some complicated log of random numbers.
Enough of this I say aloud, take to the beach –
perhaps it’s distance my eyes are seeking.
But there I find fish tumbling from the sky,
myself face up in a clump of seaweed
foamy wavelets eddying about me.
the light is different from what I’m used to.
and I wonder if I’m dreaming,
back in the southern hemisphere,
if this sinking will have a rising too.
The next cat out the bag’s
a female, fifteen or so,
standing, mouth ajar,
A mackerel on my belly, flapping.
I see her stare,
want to reach a hand, see if I can touch her
but suddenly she’s not there, and I come to,
still lying in damp sand like a heavy log.
There’s nothing for it but to roll over,
watch the water gouge
a groove where my body’s been.
Back home, I make a cup of tea.
The kettle boils. I lift a green mug from a hook
pour, and squeeze a lemon in.
So far, so good. I wash pots and plates, utensils.
Stare out at laundry, ponder.
The light is dimming and a rush of heat comes over me.
A massive bank of thunderclouds controls the sky.
I put on my headphones, turn up the volume,
dance until my body feels fifteen.
Rain pounds against the window. I close the blinds.
Cape Town to Strand, third class
I stare at shoes:
scuffed, paint-splattered, some monstrous,
some sunken, like mouths,
which have long since fallen to silence.
But hands talk, and bodies, sudden with bent-forward
moves, accompany laughter.
A girl reads a book.
I spy the title – Reunion – the text, which is English.
She tells me it’s hard to keep reading;
not because of the language but the pain of the story.
We’re black and white in a compartment of coloureds,
exuberant, jostling, tossing clicks and gutterals.
I offer her gum; she tells me I need to switch trains.
There are ipods and bags nestled in laps,
British accent informing commuters
of changes, arrivals.
We could be in London, New York or Beijing.
In the next train, I wait; no voiceover cosiness,
daylight disposed of as quickly as paper cups into a bin.
Now we’re in darkness, I’m alone with a man and my battery’s dead.
He removes ear-plugs, offers his phone.
On arrival, he walks with me, slowly,
saying ‘you don’t usually travel by train.’
I’m left feeling rueful – unmolested, unrobbed, and found out.
Copyright by the Author