Suze Francis

F L O W

My writing voice
is the texture of pliant:
sliding cool, gliding and sheer,
seeing and passing over or
scooping up and entangling,
sometimes obscuring with its fizz and delight.

My writing voice seeks
this hold for that curve;
this word for that truth.

My writing voice names
diaphanous trees waving past
dark rocks steady in the depths below.

My writing voice is a babble of commentary
running alongside
the wordless vein of experience
that throbs through the self.

Daisy Jones

MYSTERY STORY
Setting: The Golden Acre, 1985, basement shopping level, 2am
Characters: a know-it-all teenage, a sullen postmistress, a secretive botanist, a manic undertaker
The shock: a man lying in the passage

The sullen postmistress: She started working in the Robben Island post office after her father died. She never intended to stay — of course not, — handling the dirty laundry of the pathetic villagers. Don’t imagine she or her father ever got to touch, with their sun-spotted hands, the letters addressed to Nelson Mandela or Oliver Tambo. Oh no, the prison post was handled separately, with maximum fanfare: great shows of uniformed security, procedures and processions. It must have been in the late 60s that postmistress Hanna Pretorius took to folding her arms over her chest. As the years went by her chest got fuller and her arms knotted tighter. Her clothes were always synthetic. There was no Edgars on the island, my dear, and no free time for Miss Pretorius to dart across to Cape Town with the island wives.

I already told you, officer … officer Maseko … sorry? Sergeant? Fine, Sergeant Maseko, I told you, I was waiting for a friend. Hm? Yes, technically I was moving, I was walking to our meeting spot. As I said earlier — you could check your notes, you know — as I said, the last ferry back to Robben Island was cancelled. The shopkeeper and I had supper at Ocean Basket, then we chatted in her car — yes, that was where I phoned my friend, Elrena du Toit, to fetch me on Strand Street. So I left Ms Visagie, the shopkeeper, and took the short cut to the corner of Strand Street and Adderley Streets, through the Golden Acre … Yes, that was a wise decision. I have lived on Robben Island for my whole life Mr, sorry Sergeant Maseko, I am not afraid of some bedless street children lurking in the basement shopping level of the Golden Acre between Fashion XPress and King Pie. I have been around criminals my whole life, Sergeant Maseko, more than you have, I can handle myself in a shopping mall, for heavens sake. Sorry? No, I was not “alarmed” when I saw the teenager. How do I know what he wanted there at 2am? I didn’t consider it. I am not a small woman. I can handle a schoolboy on his own, even if he is holding a skateboard. So, yes, I walked on. I walked into the basement, yes, I walked down the passage. Where did I see him? Jussie, Sarge! Must I draw a picture now? Outside Sports Connexion, with an arm on the welcome mat. He was on his back. His arms like chicken wings, his one leg bent up, like he was running. Yes, I heard the boy vloek. Yes, the man lying on the ground was well-dressed. He looked like a commuter, an office worker, on his way to the station. Only five hours late for the last train, jussie. I stopped the boy. Yes, he will say the same. I used his smart-android-fancy-pantsy phone and I called 10111. We stayed on the scene. But you guys didn’t make it here before that mal undertaker who, apparently, was “on his rounds”. What nonsense is that, I ask you. An undertaker “doing rounds’? At 2am in the city centre? Hmn!

Chantal Stewart

The accident by the lake

Please watch out for the violin. Don’t damage it. I will come along with you, but please be careful. What was I doing here? I came to the lake to play my violin. Yes, I know it’s nearly dark, but I don’t need to see. I play by touch. That is the best way to feel the music. Yes, I always come to this spot near the pier so that there aren’t too many branches in my way.

What happened today? Well, I was sitting on the pier with my feet over the side. There was a boat tied to the pier. Yes it was empty, just bobbing away there. I was thinking of a song inside my head that I’d been working on when I felt a warm nuzzle at my arm. No, I didn’t hear anything. It was a dog with an injured leg. Small brown and grey with furry hair. It was limping and it looked hungry. I was reaching for its collar when I heard the noise. I saw the collar immediately. It looked like a well kept dog, clean and neat and it had a little disc on its collar. I thought probably its name or a phone number. So as I said, I was reaching for the dog’s collar when I heard the noise. It was a loud screech then a bang and then I saw  the lorry crashing backwards through the trees over there and ending up with its back end in the lake. The motor was still running and the front was angled upwards like a hooked fish.

No I couldn’t see if there was anyone inside. I started running over to it to have a look. That’s when the fisherman appeared. No, officer, I don’t know where he came from. I was running towards the lorry and the he was next to me, also running towards it.  Yes, he said something to me, but I couldn’t hear on account of the wind and the shrieking birds and the bits of machinery breaking off the truck and falling into the water. Actually it does make quite a noise, bits of metal falling into a quiet lake. Lots of splashing, disturbs the birds and they’re thrashing through the branches and the wind is whipping away.

Maire Fisher

From a work in progress

Sometimes it feels like writing things down about what is happening here every day must get so boring for you. All I can do is pick up scraps of what’s happening. What people say, what they do. No one ever pays much attention to me. So I’m there to listen when Annie says something to Orville, or Anthea goes off like a rocket. It’s not like anyone ever says, ‘what do you think, Bird?’ or ‘let me tell you what the plans are  for next week, Bird.’ Or even, ‘this is what we’ve decided, Bird. Does that suit you?’ No they don’t tell me much at all. I don’t think they do it on purpose. They all love me, even Anthea, I think, it’s just that there’s such a big gap between me and them. So I just find my way from room to room, gathering scraps, like what happened this afternoon when I heard Thelma talking about me.

‘That little Bird, I heard her say, I don’t know here she comes from.’

I know, I wanted to say. Annie explained it all, to me, about how babies grow in Mommies’ tummies and it takes a long time and they’re so nice and comfortable and warm but after they’ve been there for almost a whole year they decide it’s time to visit the world and so the mommy has to push really hard and then they come out, through a special place that God put there, just so that babies could come into the world. But I didn’t get a chance to say any of that to Thelma because she was still speaking. I heard the clink of metal on metal and realised that Koos must be there too, getting his morning tea. He rumbled something in his deep voice and Thelma continued. ‘Now you look at The Madam, such a beautiful woman, you should have seen here when she was younger. My, the heads turned. And even now, when the doctor comes it’s cough, cough and straighten the tie and smooth down the hair. She’s old all right, The Madam, but she’s still got what it takes. Still beautiful, even if she isn’t so nice.’

Koos laughed and Thelma joined him. ‘No, not so nice at all. Miss Annie and the big girls, all so pretty. And Mr Orville, he’s a good looking man.’

I took a step back. Suddenly I didn’t want to hear what else Thelma had to say. But her words caught me and held me in place.

‘But Birdie? She’s all legs and arms, that little one, bones put together to make a body. No matter how much she eats, she never looks fed. And those eyes of hers. So big. Grey like the clouds and full of questions. I tell you, I don’t know how she came into this family. Shame, right at the end, after the big beautiful girls. And her brothers. Now those boys, they would have been something. And then, there’s little Bird. ’

Koos said something else.

‘Oh yes,’ Thelma replied, ‘she’s a good child. And a kind one. Now that she definitely didn’t get from the old madam.’

Daisy Jones

GOLIATH

He might well have noticed my belt. Goliath I am, of many years experience in battle, alone and in squadron, in battles at home and on foreign sand. My belt is smaller now, not bigger. Fixed in the fifth sweat-stained leather hole, not in a hole beyond the sixth, a raggy hole, off-centre, made with the point of his sword. Idiot. He could have risen to Colonel but now his belly hangs over his harness, and him no older than my father’s third son. I would have sat ahead of him at harvest meal and he dares to mention my belt? Goliath I am, the oldest son, a personal favourite of the general. My feet are broad in my sandals, my calves swell like boulders, my legs are like rolling logs. My chest is metal, I have made it so. Goliath I am, a bull of a man, a gift to my mother, a treasure, the head of the household now. There is no man, not flabby gut or any other, who would dare even knock on my mother’s door. She is forever safe with me.

Is this a messenger? This woolly lamb? This lad? I came here to fight. I, Goliath, stand on the sand, in the sun, the leather of my tunic shading my thighs, my mighty back gleaming, my sword too heavy for a woman to lift, but what does this girl do? He has a strap of leather — I thought for a moment it was a bird, a pet, released by his hands, two dark wings against the sun. He is bending to pick up pebbles. It is nothing for me to wait. War is in the waiting. This tree is rooted for as long as the general decrees it so. For as long as it takes my enemy to fall.

Chantal Stewart

Mrs Rochester’s Dramatic Monologue

Will you come tonight, Edward? It has been many nights since you were last here. It is darkening now. The candles need lighting, but they have taken away the matches. Mrs Poole is late with the dinner. She was late with lunch too, and she only brought some gruel and dry bread. She said she was busy preparing a room for someone. Is it for us, Edward? Have you decided to have me back? Like before. When you first came to the estate, it was bright and sunny and full of life. Remember  how you chased me through the streams and the fields and how you caught me in your arms and loved me. Mama told me to be careful. You were different. You were English. But I did not know how different till I came to your cold, grey country. It sucked the life out of me.  I felt like I was walking through swamps, dragging my body behind me. And that made me so tired that I wanted to sleep all the time. I forget things too. I forget how long I have been in this room, and not in your room. I forget how long it is since you have taken me, and I forget why. Now you come and visit me, each time only for a  few minutes and you talk about whether the bed is comfortable and if I am well. Where has my love gone? Where is my Edward and why have you deserted me? When you come tonight I will ask you if the preparations are for a  new room for us. Maybe you have been planning a surprise for me. Maybe tonight you will carry me out of this dark cold room, and I will be your girl again.

 

 

Mary Monaghan

First

 

The first case I ever cracked was when I was on a train and just as it entered a tunnel there was a knock on the window.  The lights in the compartment flickered and I glanced at my fellow travellers.  They too had heard it, a furious knocking, but where was it coming from?  We looked at each other as the train sped through the tunnel.  The lights started to flicker; one of our fellow travellers had gone down the train to the dining car.  He had been gone a long time.

Jimmy was a street sweeper, but not just any street sweeper, he used to sing and dance as he swept the streets.

As the train emerged into the light of day there was a sharp thud.  The teacher who was sitting next to me moved towards the window and looking out she saw the street sweeper’s body bumping along the railway tracks.  She motioned to me to look out of the window and I immediately pulled the emergency alarm.  The train shuddered to a halt.  The rest of the passengers had now seen what had happened and the noise was incredible as they shouted and screamed to each other.

I blew my police whistle, ‘Order, order, I am a police officer, please stay calm and stay where you are.’  I moved to the door, opened it and jumped down to the tracks together with the driver and the conductor.  Jimmy, the street sweeper’s lifeless and mangled body lay sprawled across the tracks.  Some of the passengers tried to approach the body. ‘Stand back, stand back,’ I said.  ‘This is a crime scene’.

I followed procedure and confirmed that Jimmy was dead and then surveyed his body for clues as to who had perpetrated this crime.  This was my big chance to make a name for myself.  I knew it would make all the papers, a murder on a train, and I was right there.

I thought back to my time on the train. Jimmy had been talking to the suave and very opinionated ad executive, Al who was smoking outside in the corridor.  It was clear that the Al did not like what Jimmy was saying to him.  Jimmy was not happy with the attention that Al had been paying to Jimmy’s fiancée Ethel.  Ethel was a quiet, timid sort, a teacher and evidently didn’t know how to fend off Al’s unwanted advances.

Jimmy followed Al when he went to the dining car.  Al returned ta few minutes later, his face flushed, holding his shoulder.  Yes, it had to be him who had manhandled Jimmy off the train sending him to his untimely death.

I had cracked the case, my first one ever.

Annette Snyckers

The Ancestor  

I have often watched you coming up here where the wind blows by the sea. Here where our traces lie buried on the dune. You are a child of our children’s children removed far down the line of life spinning through time. I have watched you again today – how you came with your husband to look for traces of the ancestors. What drives you to walk so far along the beach and to climb so steeply up the dunes where there is nothing but wind and sand?

I saw you scratching around a long-deserted workshop site where stone splinters still litter the ground. I saw your disappointment when you did not find what you were looking for. Down to the beach you went, dragging your feet in the shallow water as you took the long way back home. I called to you then and I saw your confusion when you told your husband to carry on while you turned back up another dune.

After I had lost the arrowhead so meticulously shaped by my father, I was in a great deal of trouble. Last night’s storm finally blew away the last layers of sand under which it had lain buried for millennia. I could see it now, but my disembodiment did not allow me to retrieve it, to make good to my father. So I called to you and you heard although I could see that you did not understand when you found it perfect, exposed on the side of the dune. I saw fear on your face and fascination as you reached out to pick it up.

I saw you clasping it tightly in your hand as you ran down the dune. I saw fire in your eyes. I saw your husband turn pale when you opened your hand to show him your treasure.

Daisy Jones

MYSTERY OF MY LIFE: The mystery of the gypsy: “You are pregnant,” the gypsy said. “The child will bring you great joy.”

From the point-of-view of the gypsy fortune teller’s daughter. She was a teenager then, peeping through the curtain, but she’s older now, telling the story to her own daughter. Gumma is the gypsy who foretold my mother’s pregnancy with me.

Gumma couldn’t have known she was pregnant. She was as thin as a wand, that one. She didn’t mind being thin either, she was in a pencil skirt — navy, I think — and a white button-up blouse. Heels. Oh, I don’t know, they might have been two-tone, expensive-looking anyway. No, the thing I remember was her hair. Not all bouffy and beehived like the other girls at the fair. Quite the modern thing she was, with hair cut like a boy’s, snipped close to the head. A bit like, you know, Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. That straight fringe and shiny kitten fur hair at the back, in the nape of the neck. She wasn’t rich — awful handbag, cheap lipstick — but she was something to look at it. She was with another lass, frumpy she looked, next to the tall, skinny one. Her sister it was. Don’t ask me how I know. I know. Gumma had the gift good and proper but it didn’t pass me by entirely, you cheeky wotsit. Now, this short-haired woman sat down opposite Gumma in the tent. You could tell she wasn’t planning to believe a bit of it, that she just came in for a lark. She must have got a start when Gumma got going. There was always something in her voice that took the glad grins off people’s faces. Not just her accent. She knew and they knew she knew. So the woman went quiet, got stiffer, in the body. She leant forward a bit, started rolling her wedding ring around on her finger. When Gumma told her she was pregnant the girl smacked back against the chair. She recovered herself just as quick, got all proud, embarrassed and shot back: “That’s impossible!” Gumma just watched her. I watched her too. I had to be careful not to rustle the curtains, or burp or fart. I was so close to your Gumma’s table it might as well have been a table for three. I was on my haunches — a danger for me was bones creaking, but I was young then, just a girl, not much older than you are now. Gumma waited for the news to sink in, like she always did, respectfully-like, and then she said: “The child will bring you great joy.” I knew the woman wouldn’t forget hearing that. I never did either. When I was pregnant with you I kept remembering her saying it, wishing she’d been alive to say it to me. She would have too, you know. And it would have been true.

Annette Snyckers

Longing by Ttynnare Kneecss
(A poem in the free Trectistic form)

I feel alone
among people running to and fro –
however, I long for that place in the fynbos

where I hear
only the waves and the birds –
languidly sighing the sea, songs in the Milkwoods below.

But I know
even there, summer is almost over.
Presently winter’s rain will sift over the city again.

Christina Coates

Childhood Garden – a paradelle

Cracked birdbath – enough water for a canary –
cracked birdbath – enough water for a canary –
sandstone steps laid sixty years ago,
sandstone steps laid sixty years ago,
cracked years – enough for sixty steps
laid a sandstone canary ago – birdbath water.

Seeds of sycamore – little wings –
seeds of sycamore – little wings –
hydrangea heads in colours of rusty pink,
hydrangea heads in colours of rusty pink;
little rusty wings, heads of hydrangeas,
of sycamore seeds, a pink colour.

Green lichen on a dead branch,
green lichen on a dead branch,
leather-brown leaf falls to ground,
leather-brown leaf falls to ground,
leather branch, dead, falls to ground
a green leaf – on lichen brown

Enough years fall cracked – little leather wings –
of sandstone, sycamore seeds,
a brown branch for leaf and lichen,
a canary – the colour pink –
of birdbath, green water, dead hydrangea heads –
sixty steps laid on rusty ground.

Annette Snyckers

Wabi Sabi Summer by Ttynnare Kneecss
(A poem in the Paradelle form)

Lilac Agapanthus felled by hot winds,
Lilac Agapanthus felled by hot winds,
Hydrangeas are faded, pastel.
Hydrangeas are faded, pastel.
By hot winds faded, felled,
Hydrangeas pastel, Agapanthus lilac.

Scorched leaves of high summer,
Scorched leaves of high summer,
ferns flattened in a bed of bronze.
ferns flattened in a bed of bronze.
High summer scorched of leaves,
in a bed of bronze ferns flattened.

Tree skeleton stands stark,
Tree skeleton stands stark,
dead needles, detritus of death.
dead needles, detritus of death.
Tree death, stark skeleton,
detritus of dead needles.

Faded Hydrangeas flattened by stark winds,
detritus of leaves, bronze needles.
High in a tree stands the
scorched skeleton of death.
Ferns felled, Agapanthus dead pastel,
hot bed of lilac summer.

Bridgett Whyte

‘Phrasing paradelle’

Violet canopy in the distance
Violet canopy in the distance
Mature trees sprouting moss
Mature trees sprouting moss
Distance mature trees in violet
The canopy sprouting moss

Bamboo sticks enclose a herb patch
Bamboo sticks enclose a herb patch
Bricks at attention line the walkway
Bricks at attention line the walkway
Sticks bricks herbs a line
At attention bamboo enclose the patch

Logs half burnt and blackened in the braai
Logs half burnt and blackened in the braai
An empty swing and bench wait side by side
An empty swing and bench wait side by side
The logs and swing empty and half burnt
Wait side by bench in side an blackened

The canopy stick in half line
Distance and mature trees enclose herb walkway
The bricks side a violet swing
Moss blackened by an empty braai
Burnt bench and bamboo at attention
Sprouting patch in side the logs wait

Penny White

Sweet Memory
A paradelle by Pithy de Wen (Penny White)

The knees creak with each step
The knees creak with each step
Tired leaves flow to a flooded fence
Tired leaves flow to a flooded fence
Each step creaks the fence
to flood a tired knee with flowing leaves

The loose stones wobble underfoot
The loose stones wobble underfoot
Faded blooms on a memorial garland whisper
Faded blooms on a memorial garland whisper
The memorial stone wobbles
A whisper on faded garland blooms underfoot

Twisted dusty grasses point to
Twisted dusty grasses point to
Two sweet wrappers drowning under submerged stone
Two sweet wrappers drowning under submerged stone
Submerged grasses, dusty twisted wrappers under two stones
To sweet drowning point

The broken fence creaked,
Two tired bent blooms wobble on the loose stone step
A twisted whisper of dusty garland drowning underfoot as
Each faded wrapper flowed
With sweet grass leaves to point to knees flooded
Against the submerged memorial stone

Tansy Dots

Hydrangea Prayer

A Paradelle by Tansy Dots

Charred, crumbling logs
Charred, crumbling logs
Tiny feet slipping in sand
Tiny feet slipping in sand
Charred feet crumbling in sand,
tiny slipping logs.

Dried remains of hydrangea blooms
Dried remains of hydrangea blooms
Clattering cups and murmuring voices
Clattering cups and murmuring voices
Dried voices & clattering remains,
cups of hydrangea blooms murmuring.

Weathered, painted table-top
Weathered, painted table-top
Signs for prayer gardens
Signs for prayer gardens
Weathered signs for painted prayer,
table-top gardens.

In tiny painted gardens
Logs of crumbling hydrangea blooms
Cup charred table-top voices.
Weathered sand-feet murmuring
For slipping signs and
Dried, clattering prayer remains.

Maire Fisher

An Ode to Corbin Vines – A paradelle

Corbin Vines, his name is in verdigris on a varnished bench.
Corbin Vines, his name is in verdigris on a varnished bench.
Roses bloomed last year, and now, only bronze of petals remains.
Roses bloomed last year, and now, only bronze of petals remains
Corbin Vines vanishes, of last year’s rose, now a petal.
Only his name remains, benched in bronze and blooming on verdigris.

Rows of rough stones edge the uneven path.
Rows of rough stones edge the uneven path
and small leaves lie, underside up, against the coarse ground.
And small leaves lie underside up against the coarse ground.
The small path leaves an even course and rows up rough against edges.
The sides of stones lie underground.

Cracked in black, vinyl tears. A dish of dry leaves.
Cracked in black, vinyl tears. A dish of dry leaves.
The rusted tap drips on, below a white-eyed satellite.
The rusted tap drips on, below a white-eyed satellite.
A White-eye taps on the satellite, a vinyl dish cracks.
Below, rust leaves drips, in tears of dried black.

Rows of varnished benches. Tears drip and a petal
lies on the uneven ground below. Corbin Vines is on the path
of leaving, set alight, a rosy bloom of bronze. Only a small roughness
now, coarse and rusted white under a verdigris dish.
A name’s on a cracked stone, edged in black. Years on,
vines will tap, dry-eyed, up against the side of his last remains.

(Left-over words: On, of, a, a)