Sue Bust

It’s 4 p.m., cold and dank. In a ruined country chapel, a concerned citizen is conducting an orchestra with lethargy.

A concerned citizen conducting the orchestra with lethargy. Craig concerned about making this earth a better place, concerned about making others succeed, concerned and conducting choirs and orchestras. Oh, this orchestra requires a kick in the rear. Oh, the efforts he has forged to get the crumbling country chapel repaired.

Craig is tired of trying, tired of incompetence, tired of trying to teach these incompetents – it’s impossible in this disintegrating country chapel. It could be so distinguished if only someone would listen to him and do something. He feels so lethargic, so loath to put any more effort into this crumbling orchestra and this crumbling building. He conducts in the cold and dank, dying to drive home to his drink and dinner.

Craig the concerned citizen thinks thoughts of bygone days, when he conducted in cathedrals, orchestras containing competents, some of the finest in the country. Cathedrals and theatres, theatrical recitals and reverent reveries. How did he end up here in this crumbling chapel with this incompetent orchestra? The finery, the fame, the recognition he received. The finest in the nation; he himself one of the finest and here he is now. Her majesty herself saw him perform. Here he is now; how, he wonders, wandering reflection.

Concerned citizen Craig conducting in a crumbling country chapel to nincompoops. Look at them, lot of losers, misfits and mongrels. Are they thankful for the favour he bestows as benefactor? For whom is he doing a favour? Time to terminate this arrangement and manage his life differently, favouring himself. Droning, drowning, draining derelict of drinks and dinner.

Sue Bust

Night wind woman

Night wind woman enters the still night and blows
Blows gently and the wind is a gentle breeze
carrying salt from the sea into your lungs
and onto your skin.

Night wind woman blows hard and blows up a storm
Slanting, stinging rain till you scream for shelter
She laughs at the sight of you and stops the storm
You laugh with relief.

Sue Bust

The morning sun

The morning sun tastes like the fermented ginger beer the Skinners brewed in their back yard and once forgot about and left until it was oozing out of bottles in a murky mess and when I tasted its extreme bubbliness, its yeasty sourness up my nose, I was wide awake and screwing up my eyes like I do when I walk out into the morning sun. And when I screw my eyes tight against the morning sun, I see a kaleidoscope, like the kaleidoscope in the darkness of a haunted house, black splotched with red and orange, colours that burn into the pupils of my eyes. And then I might be drinking fermented ginger beer in a haunted house

Sue Bust

Monster incantation

Monsters in a cave, bring them out
bring them out into daylight.
They blink their eyes, look meek
Monsters in a cave, bring them out.

Monsters in a cave, bring them out
bring them out, expose them,
stare them in the face.
Monsters in a cave, bring them out.

Monsters in a cave, bring them out
bring them out, put them on display.
Dance with them, do a jig
Monsters in a cave, bring them out

Monsters in a cave,
bring them out, dance with them,
out of control, moving
Monsters in a cave, bring them out

Monsters in a cave, bring them out
bring them out, do a jig
passionate and ungainly.
Monsters in a cave, bring them out

Monsters in a cave, bring them out
Reach for the unspoken
my own sins, my own crimes
Monsters in a cave, bring them out

Dance with them, do a jig.

Sue Bust

Runaway brother
(Or Chill Mamas, chill)

Dorian to the right of the groom,
lipstick perfect, dabs her chin.
Her husband whispers “Now’s the time.”
She stands and gives her bell a ring.

Sarah enters the wedding tent,
awkward in pink frilly bridesmaid‘s gown,
crosses the floor to her standing mom:
“Steven has taken the car on his own.”

All eyes are on the bridal table.
Dorian: “Speech later. Go on. Enjoy.”
Dorian, groom, father and Sarah
leave to find the run-away boy.

“How could he on Dan’s wedding day,
drive unlicensed to who knows where?
Father, Dan take the wedding car, find him.
I’ll phone him, sort out this daft nightmare.”

Dorian: “Damn him. He doesn’t answer!”
Sarah: “Mom, don’t be angry and ruin the day.”
Dorian: “Don’t patronize me. Steven’s to blame.
I’m a model mom, giving my son away.

Up comes Meegan, the bride’s nosy mother:
“I know something’s wrong. What’s going on?”
Dorian: “Nothing. Nothing. Just finding Steven.”
Meegan: “Oh dear. Oh dear. Where has he gone?”

Steven drives up, parks and gets out.
Dorian: “You are in trouble, my son.”
Meegan: “Dear, dear. How very naughty.”
Steven: “Chill Mamas, chill. Just having some fun.”

Sue Bust

My Princess

It’s still dark and the morning air is nippy. I step on the loose sleeper step, wood on wood; do not want the echo to wake the others sleeping in the rooms below. I push the door into the soft, suedy curtain.

“Good morning My Angel,” I say, closing the door behind me. I creak across the wooden floor.

“Uh,” Kayla moans.

The room is cold. She keeps the window next to her open behind the curtains. I pull back her covers, push her over and climb into the three-quarter bed next to her. Warm. She’s warm, relaxed, heavy in sleep. I put my arm around her and spoon into her. She needs a shower to wash away the odours of young womanhood. I wonder if these smells attract young males, but are washed away in the shower every day. I’m aware of my boobs pressing into her and wonder if it’s inappropriate to lie like this with my daughter.

“Okay My Girl. Time to get up,” I say.

“Sleep,” she says.

“Kielie, kielie, kielie,” I say, practicing the Afrikaans she needs to learn, tickling her tummy, under her arms.

She wriggles. “Uh-uh,” she says.

I hug her again. My heart feels such love. I force myself up and pull the covers off her and off the bed so she can’t pull them back.

“Time to get up,” I say.

“Uhh,” she moans.

I go around to the other side of the bed and pull her up, heavy and floppy.

“No, Mommy,” she says.

She’s taller than me and I can’t hold her weight for long. I kiss her cheek, smelling her morning breath as she leans into me. I let her go and she falls onto her pink, flower-shaped carpet. I look at her, beautiful and scary, a creature rare, yet familiar.

“Don’t stay there for too long,” I say, and leave to make her lunch.

Sue Bust

Catching fish is not always easy.
A fisherman treading on pebbles.
There has to be something on the table.
Someone’s hunger has to go.
Epiphanie Mukasano


At the edge of the pool I
lie watching, watching, meditating.
Clouds blown along, changing shape.
Sleep a warm sun sleep,
a cool earth sleep.
Wake groggy and hungry.
Will catch fish.
Catching fish is not always easy.

What will attract fish? Worms?
Dig, scrape, hard rich soil
into my nails.
Push worms onto spear. Wince.
Wade on pebbles into clear water.
Too slow.
Another earthworm, another try,
a fisherman treading on pebbles.

Fingers muddy, bloody,
eyes fuzzy,
dizzy with hunger, exhausted.
Lift spear for kill.
Fish get away again, again.
Blood in water from worms, fish, me.
There has to be something on the table.

Thrust. Thrust again.
I get one – speared,
squirming, wriggling, impaled.
Sushi? No.
Sun through glass.
Rainbow surrounded pin-light.
Smoke. Fire.
Someone’s hunger has to go.

Sue Bust


My own marshes I want to leave.
Easy, no not easy, my own mud.
Admit it consciously.
Through the writing, let it come,
come in front,
I mean.

Should be writing clever metaphors,
something clever.
All those funny stories
other authors do – witty, spell-breaking

My time.
If it’s not, why am I wasting it?
Is someone else good enough?

Is someone else good enough?
If it’s not, why am I wasting it,
my time?

Other authors do – witty, spell-breaking –
all those funny stories.
Something clever –
should be writing clever metaphors

I mean.
Come in front,
Through the writing, let it come,
admit it consciously.
Easy, no not easy, my own mud.
My own marshes I want to leave.

Sue Bust


Violet loves her name
             and loves herself
only wears violet
             down to her bra and garters

Violet loves to dance
             with ghosts in forest shadows
a glittering fairy of passion
             twinkling on a xylophone

Violet dances naked
wearing only those earrings I love
             and a hat like Grandma wore
her bare breasts have orange nipples
             and her sex triangle is orange
but she has mulberry soles of feet

(A tribute to the orange art at Theresa’s)

Sue Bust

Valley of the Red Gods

Up Table Mountain – a rock scramble climb
shrouded in mist – a cameo sublime
on top of a ridge – a valley below
a wall of rock heads – gods in a row

Ancient god heads, gods of history
Misty red heads, gods of mystery
From the sunken valley floor I bow
hidden from all man and beast but thou.

Sue Bust

Sometimes poems decide that a rhymes with b rhymes with a – as Sue says: ‘Can’t go according to a maths formula.’


Singing into her double chin
Shoulders straight, tummy in
Showing weakness is a sin

Afternoons of bridge and gin
Tough rooster served as coq au vin
Singing into her double chin

Frayed and penniless to begin
Life a constant fight to win
Showing weakness is a sin

Never used a begging tin
Face all hardships with a grin
Singing into her double chin

Made it to the highest pin
Uptight, upright and holding in
Showing weakness is a sin

Is it all it should have been?
Does she hold her peace within?
Singing into her double chin
Showing weakness is a sin

Sue Bust

Saving Space

The universe is immeasurable, the world gargantuan, the house monstrous and the kitchen huge. But for her the space is confined. All there ever is, is in this moment, in this space that goes no further than the chairs around the kitchen table.

Look at her, sitting at the table, shrunken, shrunken away from him and so unhappy. Her expression says it all. Small eyes scared to look away from him, mouth curling down, firmly set, firmly closed, thin lips, grim. Sunken shoulders, arms down, hands on lap, motionless. Not defending herself. No defense is better, safer.

Angry. His voice is angry, accusing, attacking. All the pain and hurt he’s felt his whole life, his whole forty years, is in his words and he’s trying so hard to transfer that pain to her, to offload it onto her. He doesn’t want it any more. He wants her to take it. He’s trying so hard to make her take it. He’s leaning forward in attack position. His eyes are fiery. His voice is incessant. He must keep talking. He must keep control. He cannot let her speak. He cannot let her words in. He’s afraid of what might happen then.

What might happen then? He might have to see that he cannot pass on his pain this way; that no matter how much he causes her pain, his pain won’t go away. He might have to see that she did not cause his pain.

She sits there trying to be invisible. She wishes she could get up with a “fuck you” and flee. But she doesn’t. She sits there trembling and numb and takes it all. He keeps asking questions he doesn’t want her to answer. There is no rational response because the questions are irrational. So she tries to answer honestly, but often this makes him more angry. So she tries to say as little as possible.

Then he asks something. And in that moment she knows, she cannot be Jesus Christ to him; he is the only one who can be his saviour. Still she sits there, silent, wearing his crown of thorns.