Rosemary Barker

Sweet dreams

First flirt with my senses
Thursday starts with thump
of newspaper on bedroom wall
Spring out of bed to see if
I won the Wednesday lotto or not
Keep having that sweet dream
Thinking of all the gifts on the
brink of giving
About how lives would turn inside
out  – then
the end of the dream the
end of the spend – the end
of the mind bend  – from Spring to
Autumn the wanton game lends life momentum

Rosemary Barker

It’s Wednesday morning and this would have been the second day of my building-on.  All they managed to do yesterday was to take down the fence, but I felt pleased.  Now I feel like a person who doesn’t know who she is or where she lives.  And I am only able to feel what is my body. And that is mainly about my hands. They are sore because they were cut.  A fishgutter definitely works on humans.  I feel dirty and I feel fat.  Not in a ‘oh god these jeans are tight’ way, but in a ‘this body is horrible’ way. I feel like I could do without myself right now.  And I don’t know why I want so badly this candlewick dressing gown. It is an uncomfortable apple green.  My mother bought it for me before I went to university and I have never worn it.  So why do I want to take it to the Hand Clinic at Groote Schuur?  I am glad that my mother who thought I deserved the best dressing gown in UNIWINKELS does not know that I can’t afford a private hospital and that I am on my way to the early morning gangster haven for hands shot and stabbed in the night.  I can’t believe my window sill is red and has dried-blood drips along the edge.

I’m standing on my stoep and I feel dirty.  The blood smell is confusing and nauseating.  And weird – like my blood-footprints on the stairs.   Tyna is in the house and I wish we could leave.  The dressing gown is heavy on my arm and I feel like EXHIBIT A with my bandaged hands. I look inside and see my blood-soaked clothes on the floor.  Leave them I tell Tyna.  Just leave them.  Let’s go. And I am cross with the people I ran to for help.  With Mariette who put me on a plastic chair with newspaper.  And with Tyna who looks as if she might die of anxiety and somehow just doesn’t come out and take me away.

With nothing to do but stand there … I remember.  I am engrossed with reliving the events of the morning.  Running the video through my mind over and over again.     This is scary.  It is impossible not to shudder and cry.  When I first told the story I felt nothing.  I now feel destroyed. And helpless.  But at least they did not manage to mutilate me in the way they had planned.

I am surprised by the familiar, but somehow also new,  sea-and-sky world in front of me.  Green.  Pink.  Blue.  And overwhelming.  As my ribs expand I feel that I am filling up with some kind of understanding or  knowledge.

A knowledge that only properly translates in to words an hour or so later at the hand clinic. I am the only white non-gangster, but I’m bonding quickly as we share info about how we got hurt. For all of us it was either ‘a steb’ or ‘a fokkenbullet’.  A question about where I live brings up the picture of that morning’s view from my stoep.

There’s no way I’m giving my address I said.  But what I can say, and do want to tell them about, is my newly-found conviction that the beauty of the world is so much more powerful and important than anything that can ever happen to any of us.

Rosemary Barker


Tonight none will visit
frightened off by the big blow

Its force could take me off
I am not really anchored here

Life’s tapestry in threads
Threads and dreams carried on the wind

Ignored by two wise crones
in the far windy Eastern Cape

Their joy in the needle
not affected by rattling door

Their shared joy in bright threads
not affected by loosening panes