Mish Damstra


We swing through the heights
on a cosmic trapeze,
our safety a golden thread
Ascending the universe,
beyond breath, all matter,
all that is

Passing The Little Prince,
ghosts and spirits,
we’re high wire flyers
There, in dark stillness,
clouds gather fierce and round,
shorn wool, grey with chill

I swing through the heights
on a cosmic trapeze
Coming through thunder,
strong and long,
to rest in rays of turmeric
on a trampoline sun

My safety – these golden threads,

Mish Damstra

Something Fishy

I have found a stream.

I am following this stream brimming, swimming with fish, and I see an angel pulling a line, knee deep in the water. He murmurs to the hooked fish, returns it to the water and the fish fins away. The angel does this again and again.

These fish are strange fish. They shoot out the water and belly-flop into it again. Some have propelled themselves onto the bank and convulse in a fish-fit on the wet sand. As I throw them back as many return, throwing themselves into my deep footprints. I stop walking and sit on the bank, looking for the fish of my longing. I will watch the angel.

Before embarking on this journey I was attached to words and their meaning. I was looking for answers in books, turning pages, leaving moist prints on corners of words, longing for truth. Where do I go to be right? Here I sit on a stream bank, thoroughly booked. There are no words, no pages that lead me to paradise. No verbs, nouns, or adjectives that spare me a thought. I have booked my way out of living and into the lap of discontent.

I watch the angel hook fishes, murmur over fishes, for the longest time. I call to the angel when my watching is spent. I say: Angel, please tell me what you are doing?

Angel:    I’m angeling.
Me:    What is angeling?
Angel:    Angeling is like fishing. You cast your line and wait for a seeker to bite.
Me:    Why?
Angel:    Because I know and the yearning fish need to be told that which I know. So I am angeling.
Me:    What do you tell them?
Angel:    The truth.
Me:    The truth?
Angel:    Yes, I tell them the truth.
Me:    Tell me what you say.
Angel:    (Beckoning) Come here, yearning seeker, and you will hear from your own mouth what I say.

I splash through fish and water to stand before the angel. The angel tells me to put my hands in the stream, as if to receive something. I place my hands alongside one another, palms up, and lower them into the water. A fish floats onto my hands like a gift. I lift it from the water, and water pours from my hold. Fish gills gasp, fish eyes shine an unblinking stare, and the tailfin thrashes.

Me:    (Distressed) What do I say?
Angel:    Tell it the truth.
Me:    (Telling the truth) You are a fish and a fish you must be. Don’t think that breathing air will make you something more. Breathing air will make you less. You will die longing for what you always had – life. You are no more and no less for being a fish. You are what you are. Just be. If you long for nothing, you lack nothing. You are happy.

The fish flaps over the rim of my hands and plops into the stream and the angel says to the school of fish: Yes, cast not your aspirations higher, to the air above, but breathe what is yours. These are the waters of life.

The angel evaporates and I splash through fish and water back to the bank. I continue my journey with a lightness of tread and no fish throw themselves before or behind my feet; the water flows without ejecting its occupants heavenward.

I go forward, unhindered.

I have been angeled.

Mish Damstra

Our Goochie

Sunning on the floorboards, our goochie forgot what he was. The sunning, the heat, the light, all lulled him into a sunnyside-up stupor – half cooked. All goochies have a sunny nature, a sunny outlook, but never has a goochie forgotten what he is.

Sunning is not the problem. What is a problem is kittening. This goochie believes he is cute – a ball-of-fluff-goochie, a play-with-wool-balls-goochie. He is kittening up a sun-soaked armchair as I write, pulling threads, gum-sucking the floral upholstery. He leaves wet patches of drool as he kittens up the backrest, his two pairs of mooning eyes reflect the chairing state of his brain. He is sitting on our armchair and on his intellect. Oh, the shame.

A goochie is NOT cute, and a goochie does NOT play.

Goochies are grey and hairless, have four mooning eyes, fat lips, and not a tooth to be found – not on, under, or behind their gums. Drool spills from their flaccid lips and a squinting goochie is frightening.

Goochies are brain extensions. Their function is to assist their owner/owners in extra-heavy intellectual pursuits. Goochies are filtered through the Brain Extension University. This goochie is chairing. He is sitting on his intellect and has bummed out. To chair is to squash fine judgement, goochie ethics, and skill. Our goochie has clean forgotten where his graduation must lead him. He is an embarrassment to all goochiedom and we are mortified. It’s no fun having an outcast in your home.
I cannot think straight. While our brain extension is sunning, kittening, and chairing, I am left to think for myself.

God, I’m exhausted.)

Mish Damstra

Shining wetness pulses and throbs
throttling all spaces between

Slit eyes and forked tongues
slither seductively

Push me atop the snake sea
onto mating balls of silk

Rocked on scales of smoothness
I sip the forbidden milk

Spill earth colours on my skin
Slide over my belly and hiss

Polished in rippling softness
see tension slip into kiss

Ease my passage, you squeezing coils
into serpents who massage

Without oils

Mish Damstra

Thinking Straight

‘How do you know it’s going to happen?’ she says.
John looks away, into the computer screen on his mahogany desk.
‘I know it’s going to happen because,’ and here he clicks on Save, ‘you keep talking about it. You think about it. You’ve bought the outfit, Janet. Don’t you think it childish, this whole I’ll go where I want to go thing?’
John scrolls to the top of the document. It reads:
We, The People For Purity, are understood to hold the body of all that is good, chaste, honourable, and uplifting.
We hereby declare that…

‘Childish? Now it’s childish to use your process to get what I want? You thought about this place, John, and look where we are, where we live? It’s your paradise.’
all thoughts are to be censored for unsavoury content.
The People For Purity therefore find it necessary to introduce a system of thought-editing to ensure life on this planet remains…

John looks at Janet and enunciates each word. ‘This is for both of us. I thought of something that would benefit both of us, Janet. It wasn’t just for me.’
‘Oh.’  Janet rolls her eyes. ‘Oh, now I see. You can think about living on an island in solitary artistry and it’s for both of us? My God, do you really believe I’d be thinking of a space holiday if I wanted to be here? That was for you, pal, not me.’
amicable, forward thinking, and upbuilding.
‘So you’re going, are you? Thought about it enough, have you?’ John crosses his arms and swivels his chair from side to side, as if, by moving, he gains a wider view of the situation.
We wish to inform all citizens who do not understand the principles of thought-editing to familiarize themselves with our policies and procedures immediately. We declare that any and all manner of uprising…
Janet crosses her arms and looks at John, lifting her prominent chin.
or disobedience…
‘As you so rightly pointed out, I’ve bought the outfit. Why buy it if I’m not going to use it?’
regarding thought-editing…
‘Oh yeeees,’ Janet gives the words a sexy slant, ‘I’m going. Think you can stop me, darling?’
will be dealt with within The People For Purity’s disciplinary framework.
‘The question is: Do I want to, Janet? Do I want to stop you? Do I care to stop you?’ John turns back to the computer and clicks on Close.
He taps his chin with an immaculate forefinger, pondering his own questions.
‘Mmmm.’ Now he’s putting both hands behind his head, swivelling the chair again.
That would depend very much on what I think is required of me. You are my wife, after all.’
Janet dislikes the way he looks at the computer, not at her. It gives her the uneasy feeling he’s seeing something new unfold, something momentous.
‘Yes. You are my wife and, as such, have certain obligations. We must be careful, now, mustn’t we?’
John uses the armrests to push himself up off the chair. He walks past Janet and, turning before opening the door, says ‘We must set a precedent. Yes, that’s what we must do. Make this work for us.’
The door opens and John leaves the room, leaving Janet staring at the computer and forming a question of her own. Who is John’s ‘we’?
Janet walks round John’s desk, sits in his chair, moves his mouse, clicks on File, and then Open.
In documents she meets The People for Purity.
That night, Janet does not join her husband in their bed. She climbs into her white space suit in a dark kitchen and, closing the backdoor without a sound, leaves many light-years between them.

A Brilliant Concoction – Damstra’s Epic Feat! (Gosh)

A Battle Cosmic   by Mish Damstra

Again, Big Clods dashed expertly forward, gung-ho hateful. I jabbed Killer Lumps, merciless, not once placating. Quelling resistance, slicing tentacles, untying valiant warriors.

Xerxes Young zigzagged. Acting bold – courage deserting even faithful guards – he, invulnerable, jostled Killer Lumps moving nearer (opaque people, quite retarded, so taken under venomous witches, x-rays yield zero). Aching, but chased down endless falling gutters, he intended joining knights lying motionless near ostentatious, painted Queens (raiders supreme, typically unappreciative, vying with Xerxes Young). Zilch. Alas, betrayal!

Clumsy, desperate, everything failed. Going home I, joyless, knew longing; marching nightly over planets quietly revolutionary. So tired. Utilizing various weapons, Xerxes yanked Zappers as Big Clods, demons emitting frightening gurgles, hurled invisible javelins, keeping lateral monitoring networks on panic quick-fire. Reaching shores too underworld vicious, weary Xerxes yelled.


A brave commander died, eyes fierce.

Giving horrible, insensitive jerks – killing like machines, neatly orchestrating policies, queuing righteously – supremacy. Taking umbrella vows, worship.

Xerxes, you zip away. Born courageous, death extends freedom, giving heroic, iconic, jubilant karma.

(Living Memory now offers people quarterly restoration seminars to uninhibitedly view works Xerxes Young zenithed).


Be careful.

Don’t ever forget.

Go home.

If justice knows love (maybe now oppressors pitilessly quash resistance, suppress turmoil), understand – vanquishing wickedness, Xerxes Young ZOOMS!

Mish Damstra

Joy’s Journey

Somersault over winking stars, wrap this universe
round your waist. Leave rings of wispy mist on moon,
planets, in space. Frail as smoke, strong as clouds, full
blessed virgin joy.

Weave through a cosmic maze, the clustered grapes of
galaxies. Wear a gown of black holes, spin stars, give
meteorites a squeeze. Come cup Milky Way, stroke Sun,
hold Sky in your hand.

Full, blessed virgin joy, pushing dark to day.
Stroke the scorching ball Sun, cup the Milky Way.
Dirt dances on the wind for hands light with love,
forming spiral dreams.

Float down to earth, round, robust and keen. Float down
to earth, full and blessed, bless the virgin joy.
Round, robust, keen, slip into my bed this night.
Slip into my dream.

Mish Damstra

Greedenvee and the Sorcerer

On the table, in a sagging cottage with rats in the hearth and dust like a cloth of time on every surface, she finds it.

The tumbler is crudely crafted from bubbled clay. With spirals of steam, dark hot liquid, and a string hanging from its lip – at the end of the string a square of paper on which the words Earl Grey curl a friendly invitation – it promises what potions ought to promise. It promises a solution with minimal effort on her part and the wisdom of another in its brewing.

What is her name, and what does she seek in this dark hovel of rotting walls and bulging thatch?

Those who care not for her favours, her threats, call her The Filching Wench. Others, less free to think their thoughts, those in need of her moody benevolence, are wise to call her by her given name – Greedenvee.

Greedenvee has stolen from fairy tales.

Snow White’s dwarves serve her every need. Scrubbing, rubbing, stirring pots. They’re small, quiet, humble. And scared.

Cinderella’s prince comes twice a week, after dinner, while his wife sorts her shoes, weeping into the glass slipper. Greedenvee stroked his breeches and ego after Cinderella bore a fierce baby and battled colic in a cold-stone castle nursery.

Rapunzel’s hair is braided into her own, sawed from the newlywed’s head while Rapunzel dainty-snored through a drug-induced sleep. It was a first in this land and was henceforth referred to as ‘the slumber snip’. All who noted Greedenvee’s overabundance, twisted at the temples and held in service by a garnet encrusted clip, turned their heads away from the weight of the ribbon ringlets and suppressed the urge to stamp on the coils when Greedenvee sat on her divan, dining on sensational dwarf cuisine. Rapunzel fled to the tower, locking in her depression and brutal bob, until her husband assured her he loved her nonetheless.

Yet, Greedenvee cannot steal what she desires most – charm and popularity.

The dwarves serve her because she kicks them if they don’t.

The prince cancels three carnal trysts as Cinderella perks up and dances him round their monstrous bed.

Rapunzel is loved despite hair loss.

Thus we find Greedenvee dropping several gold coins and a note detailing her desires into a scarlet drawstring pouch. Bending over the sleeping, chorus-snoring dwarves, she locates Happy’s bald crown and jabs him awake with her slippered foot.

‘Come, you lazy dolt, you’re to run an errand for me this night.’

Before ejecting Happy into the moonless, hushed night Greedenvee whispers her instructions.

‘Make your way to the sorcerer in the crooked house at the far end of Steeping Lane. Knock three times on the door and pull the bell rope once. Give my pouch to whoever opens the door. Then wait. You will, in due course, be given a sealed envelope which you’re to bring to me at once. Therein I will find the sorcerer’s suggestions and intend following his direction on the morrow. Mess up and I’ll have your happy guts for garters, understood?’

Happy is mid-nod when Greedenvee boots him through the portal as if he were a stray cat.

Thinking you can summon fine qualities like one summons a servant is why we find Greedenvee far from home, cloaked and gloating, lifting a tumbler to her longing lips. As arranged, she is alone, transformations of such magnitude requiring solitude and haste. She holds the tumbler with both hands, feels the steam travel its warmth up her forehead, into her hairline. She trusts this potion. She will leave this listing cottage packaged for happiness.

The physical response is unexpected, but not at all unpleasant. Greedenvee feels pulled into the centre of her being, a contracting of all her extremities.

And finally.

A hardening.

Happy was sent by the sorcerer to check on his mistress.

He found the peasant cottage in a clearing, a two-and-a-half days walk on short legs, from the village. He stepped into the cool darkness, tipping his head back to note the decay settling into the abandoned home – his home, their home. The seven dwarves’ home. There, on the dust-packed floor, in front of the table, was a teakettle.

A teakettle with a fine, garnet encrusted knob on the lid.

Happy bent his bandy legs, lifted the kettle, and with outstretched arms, admired his red-apple cheeks in the gleaming curve of metal.

And with the return of the dwarves, Greedenvee found herself in the middle of their table, in the heart of their simple lives.

A charming, popular, hot piece of work.

Footnote: Many thanks to the sorcerer, Earl Grey.

Mish Damstra

Soulfull Fry-up

Sliced, cut, consumed
sliver by sliver. I watch you eat
my healthy liver
I watch you eat it
sliver by sliver
My sweet, when-did-it-go-missing?

You fried it
with onions. And plenty of oil
Can one not braai it? boil it?
or even bake?
You slice, you cut
you consume sliver by sliver
My sweet, fried-in-oil, spongy liver

I did not know it had gone
I should have noticed
Righted the wrong
Now you chew it, chew it
my sweet little liver. You chew it
Sliver by sliver

I saw steam rising, rising
in the air
Liver smells everywhere
I gag, I choke, I wrinkle my nose
as down
your throat it goes

The onions have a bit
of crunch, but the liver is nothing,
nothing to munch. Soft
so soft,
So spongy and smooth
With each and every swallow
I see your throat move

I did not know it had gone
Too late now
To right the wrong
How could I not miss
something so sweet?
How can my organ be such
such desirable meat?

I wrinkle my nose, I gag, I choke
How revolting, frightening
this anything goes
Sliver by sliver
I watch you eat it, my sweet

your throat it goes
Sliced, cut, consumed, my sweet
sliver by sliver
spongy, when-did-it-go-missing?

Mish Damstra


A plait hangs down her right shoulder, the hair no longer as coarse or curly as in previous years. It’s the colour of storm clouds threatening rain. Outside, the aloe garden is tweeting with sugarbirds dipping for supper. Inside, the notes of a Françoise Hardy song. Kathleen sits at her imbuia writing desk, teacup in saucer, bathed in buttery ‘golden years’ light. She opens the notebook and writes.

2025, February 21
I did it. I got on the bike behind Garth. Left Brian wincing on gout knees to the kitchen in search of a snack, and Sheldon gaping at his mother about to ride pillion on his work buddy’s Harley Davidson.

I was crisp with Garth – no speed, no testosterone pranks. Just a sedate putter round three blocks please, and take it especially slow passed big-mouth Martha’s place. The world must know I squeezed in behind a 24-year-old in chains, a buckle-bedecked leather jacket, and a ponytail.

I bossed at him to take the jacket off – a dragon tattoo belches fire onto his biceps. But he said No, it’s not cool.

Kathleen lifts her pen and cocks an ear to the music, her eyes seeing back into decades past.

…She’s so beautiful, Françoise Hardy. So exciting. I sing ‘if we are only friends why do you hold me all night through?’ I go to the player, lift the record off, turn it over. I’m singing ‘only you can do it’ to the black circle with the smaller pink and white circle in the middle when my brother and mom walk in. My brother says, Ag that sounds terrible. My mom says, You’re singing flat. I say, What does flat mean? Mom says, It’s when you’re not hitting the right note.

My brother fetches his guitar, I put Françoise Hardy back in her cover and leave the room. ‘No one can break this little heart of yours’ was on the first side.
2025, February 22
Garth came in and wanted to know whether I’d like another ride today. He suggested we rev around the block twice and stop for a kiss outside big-mouth Martha’s cottage. I said I’m getting my kicks with Brian and Françoise Hardy today, so would he please go back to Sheldon in the kitchen. If they make tea they can bring Brian and me a cup. Garth said How the knees today, Brian? And Brian said Strong enough to kick Martha up her fat backside and you back into the kitchen.

I turned the volume up with my remote and Françoise now tells me ‘a lifetime comes and goes.’ Brian has fallen asleep over his family tree file, and I love that we sit like this, two people with the comfort of memories.

…I lift the saucer out of the hot, soapy water and sing to the foam dripping off the bottom edge, putting everything into the mockery of what is, essentially, mom’s domain. I hit a high note and shiver at my own daring. I laugh and plunge into another operatic lift-off that sends my mother and brother into eyeball-rolling mode. But they’re smiling. Big brother opens the fridge for milk; I open my throat for the best blast I can summon. Mom’s lips are pushed together, holding in her smile. Actually, she says, that’s not bad. So I hit her with another bit of acrobatic vocal clowning, and she’s laughing and I’m putting a cup next to the saucer on the draining board. At sixteen I’m quite the comic.
2025, February 28
Guess who rang the doorbell ten minutes ago? Big-mouth Martha. Her bullmastiff cheeks quivered with disapproval. The pouches under her eyes are dotted with brown, pinhead bumps. I looked at them and sighed.

That boy, she said (she emphasized ‘boy’), who rides the big bike, is he from around here? Because, if he is, I want him to know we don’t behave like he does in this place. We’ve got standards. Morals.

Tell you what Martha, said Brian (he hobbled from the kitchen and stood beside me), I’ll send Garth over to your place. He can only talk if he’s biking and he’d be happy to offer you a ride.

We stepped back in unison and I closed the door.

To me Brian said, Better warn Garth to put extra air in the back tyre – she’ll have him riding on the rim.
Martha stands shocked immobile on their stoep for a good two minutes. Kathleen hears the gate being swung closed with unnecessary force. The metal vibrates in the air.

Then she hears birds. So many, many birds. Kathleen reaches for her teacup, sips, lifts the remote control, aims it at the micro hi-fi and ‘only you can do it, ah-ah ah-ah’ settles around the room and the buttery ‘golden years’ light.

Mish Damstra

Sixteenth Floor

Like pins in putty, yes, pins in putty, her heels sink into the pile
The carpet is cream, the cream of her dreams, the lace of her bra is black
She presses the button, the round brass button, pants under the lace awhile
The doors slide open, the doors glide open, and her mirrored self looks back

Both put hands to their hearts, their thudding hearts, and step closer to one another
She turns away from oneself, herself, and pulls the tight skirt down
Wiggles her bottom, beach ball bottom, the denim too tight for a mother
Nail polish frayed, she presses a button, presses again with a frown

As the doors slide, slide to a close, a billowing flag pushes in
Her pashmina flies brown, her hair is white, a white topknot like a scone
Standing in boots, suede boots, French manicure and White Linen perfume
She opens her bag, her camel bag, yes, something is definitely wrong

Pashmina Woman is blowing, blowing her nose too hard, shaken to her core
Mini Skirt is wiggling, wiggling and pulling, pulling down where there’s too much air
Watching the lights, the numbered lights, as they’re lifted to the sixteenth floor
Between her fingers, her nervous fingers, she chafes her butternut hair

Brittle strands rasp, rasp as she rubs, and her lips move in prayer
Who is this woman, this topknot woman, sharing her lifting space?
At last, at long last, with a gentle whine, they know, must know, they’re there
For the light is green, green numbered sixteen, and sixteen is what they face:

There waits a young girl, a pretty young girl, barefoot, toe-ringed and cross
She screams at the woman, the topknot woman, ‘Why didn’t you tell me before?’
Her fringe is long, long over her eyes, and she clears her eyes with a toss
‘My father’s my uncle, my brother my cousin, my mother a Kenilworth whore.’

Pashmina Woman is shocked, so shocked. The girl knows this, from where?
Mini Skirt sees the mole on the cheek, on the cheek of the child she bore
Steps back into the lift, her lift, for this meeting she cannot bear
Sixteen is the age she was, she was, when from her this child they tore

For she was nothing, yes, she was nothing. Nothing but a Kenilworth whore

Mish Damstra

Coming Up For Air 

Penny is stuffing her striped bathing costume and red bathing cap into her tog bag when the phone rings.
She looks at the clock on the wall. 
Should she answer?
Buried in the recess of her mind is the longing, the waiting, for a spark.  So she answers.
It’s the hospital.
Come, they say, she is dying.
Penny says I can’t.  If I miss the show, they’ll fire me.  My name, my act, is on the programme.  She goes to work telling herself She’ll wait for me.

While her sister drags each breath into her broken body, her mind nowhere as always, Penny is holding her breath in the pool.  Children laugh as she clings to plastic seaweed, pretending her hump, which grew on her before birth, is filled with air wanting to take her to the surface.  She sees mouths open through the glass wall.  She is the underwater ballerina clown, turning disability into ability.
Penny holds air, but not time. 
She floats to the top, breaking through water as if born again.

It is mid-afternoon before she holds the institution-white hand in her own and stares at the vacant face.  Too late for goodbye, not sure there was ever a hello.  Except, perhaps, when their cells multiplied and recognized a shared, cramped space.  Together in the womb, they floated.  Only, sister greeted the world as if she were drowned before birth – limp and silent.
Penny hears a trolley click its wheels to the bed.  Imagines lying with a tag on her toe, life shelved. 
She leaves the cold hospital, and even colder sister, to go to the shop and catch a train.  She will take a gift to her brother.

He, of the three babies born one after another 37 years ago, had the best chance. 
No hump, vibrant not vacant. 
Inside the box Penny carries is a present made up of food items – bread, long life milk, condensed milk, coffee, cereal, sugar, margarine, polony.  He is sitting on the railing outside the shelter, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette; skin burnt brown and hard, eyes scorched by days staring at sun on sea.  A train screeches round the corner.  Should I tell him? Tell him she’s gone?  Penny answers her question, Not yet.  Not here.  An impulse overcomes her.  She will keep the parcel, the food; consider it rent paid in advance.
‘Come home with me, John.  You can sleep on the sofa.’
She will find him a job.  Who knows?  He might even become famous and buy her a house.
Her selves have shifted.  Things rearrange. 
And that includes her furniture. 
The sofa is moved closer to the television.

Mish Damstra

B & B

Barbie Doll runs her hand from her fishbone slim ankle to her taut thigh, thinking Bob the Builder loves sandpaper, doesn’t he? He’s a builder. Why should I shave?

She lifts the razor out of the bathroom tidy. Strokes the handle with a gentle, loving touch; side to side, left to right, right to left, a rhythmic caress. Licks her unlined lips, tasting plastic. Thoughts pour into her empty mind – Bob loves sandpaper, I love filler. Bob loves bricks, I like plaster.
I think this relationship is going to work.
Barbie Doll’s eyes water, she’s thinking so fast – Bob loves teamwork. I can do that. Bob loves ‘Can we fix it? Yes, we can.’ I love that too.
She takes the cap off her shaving gel. Thinks, Should I, Shouldn’t I? Have I found a man who likes a scrape rather than a glide? If I leave the prickles will he stroke my calf and feel at home?
Barbie’s desire to let things slide, to let it all go, feels like a wheelbarrow loaded with breeze blocks; to heavy to push, but fun to fill. She squirts shaving gel onto her perfect shin and rubs it into a lather. Runs the razor, smooth as a Q20’d pulley, from ankle to knee.
Oh Bob, get Muck in here, Lofty too. Bring Scrambler and Dizzy, all your friends. Wendy I’m not too sure about. She gives me the creeps (Who does her hair? And those earrings are ghastly). You line danced with her, but I can set that aside. You were desperate, stood up, had to make a plan. Listen, I’ve got the wardrobe, the hair. I’ve got the waist, the long legs, the boobs. We’ll make the best team, you and I.
The razor is clogged with hairs trapped in foam. Barbie swishes it in water, gets on with the job.
For once, she would like a man who sees her heart, small and beating. Beating for Bob to build up her hopes. For Bob to take her to Sunflower Valley, where they’ll camp with Spud, Pilchard and Bird.
Barbie wants to leave the razor behind. Wants Bob to lay a foundation, leave hers in the drawer. Wants Bob to renovate, yet leave her untouched.
Barbie Doll wants Bob the Builder.
‘Can we fix it? Yes, we can.’
Wendy’s off work with a bad dose of flu.
Barbie needs her paintwork seen to.

‘Working together, they’ll get the job done.’
The earth moves, and Scoop has nothing to do with it.

Mish Damstra

Should Be


I sit on my bum, looking at ants crawling into grass.

They are busy, like Mommy was always busy. They bump into one another, say things in ant talk, then hurry past my feet.

The cat is next to me. Looking away, looking at something under the big tree next to the dustbin. I know the dustbin lorry came today, but I missed it.

Mommy should be inside, running my bath. Busy like an ant.

Mommy should be outside, pulling in the emptied bin. Busy like an ant.

Mommy should be pouring pellets into Sneakers’ tin bowl.

Mommy should be busy.

Mommy should be.

Mommy should be an ant.


I find little Charlie sitting on the front pathway, watching ants. I sit down on the stoep step, behind him. Place my long hand on his small, thin, breakable shoulder.

You want to know where Mommy is, don’t you Charlie?

He turns his hanging, slow head, looks back at me, nods.

I wish I could tell you, my boy. I wish I knew.

There is something I do know, Charlie. I know where your Mommy was. And you know what? By looking at where your Mommy was, the things she did, you’ll know where she is now.

Look at those ants. Remember when your Mommy caught you frying ants on the braai coals? You threw them in the coals, and what did she say?

She said Come here, Charlie. Look over here. That ant told something to this ant here. And this ant here is telling something to that ant there. Now what if this ant here went into the braai, before he told that ant there what he must know? Remember, Charlie?

Your Mommy said Ants must be left to live just like you. They’ve got messages to pass on, work to do. You cook one, and the others are in a stew.

Did you keep frying ants, Charlie?

Oh, and how your Mommy loved music. What’s your favourite song? ‘Bless her Beautiful Hide’? From which musical is that? Of course! ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’. You like to play the part of the oldest brother, Adam, don’t you?

I remember your Mommy saying she would love to be pulled out a window by brother Benjamin. She thought Benjamin so handsome.

Like you, you’re handsome. Your Mommy said you’d have seven brides all to yourself one day. She thought about moving. You know, to a place where you’re allowed to have more than one wife.

I see the bin is still out. If you run around the back and open the gate, I’ll pull it in.

How about that?

And Sneakers hasn’t been fed? Okay. We’ll do that too.


Auntie Barbara, do you know how to make an ant farm? My friend, Mia, she’s got an earthworm farm. I’d like an ant farm.

I’m going to open the gate now. Please be careful when you pull the bin in. There’s a spider that lives on the bin, near the wheels, and Mommy always said Where are you, Creeper? before she pulled the bin in. So please don’t squash Creeper.

Do you have a plastic bukkie for me, Auntie Barbara? One with a lid? Mommy gave me bukkies with lids to collect things. I think there’s something in that bush.


I always let the creatures go.

Mish Damstra

Tread Carefully


Bend down and touch all those who feed you
Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grannies, cousins, goats and sheep
Consumed, exhumed, excreted
No one stands, not contributing, forever

Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grannies, cousins, goats and sheep
Concentrated creature compost
No one stands, not contributing, forever
The dead decayed to nurture the living

Concentrated creature compost
People move in soil
The dead decayed to nurture the living
Tread carefully

People move in soil
Consumed, exhumed, excreted
Tread carefully
Bend down and touch all those who feed you