Walking through the garden she notices that the fence around the flowerbed was carefully built. But the mint won’t grow. She can see why. There’s not enough sun, probably not enough water either. She knows from experience that mint thrives under a dripping tap, in blazing sun, even reflected off a white wall. It was like that in Parkhurst, the house she lived in when she was first married. She had grand ideas of a herb garden, an assortment of herbs, a variety of her favourites that she imagined she might snip at sundown prior to preparing the evening meal. It was a stupid fantasy. Did it come with a straw hat and a flat basket, she wonders. No, her herb garden was unsuccessful. Most of the seedlings died, or if they survived, soon got leggy and brown. Eventually they went to seed. She’d not known enough then to look after plants. But the mint grew obscenely, in an arrogantly bright green orb, outside the bathroom window, under a dripping tap. It grew thicker and lusher, greener by the day, shaming its spindly flowerbed fellows further down the lawn. There was something yobbish about that mint. It was so loud. She’d thought mint might be difficult, it being a ‘soft’ herb, but it bushed and bristled at the abluting end of the garden — alongside the toilet outlet pipe, truth be told — with a proudly pungent posture. it was like a gang of youths, that mint bed, she mused. So verdant, so coarse, so plump with stink and so oblivious.
As a newlywed she’d fantasised about a herb garden, imagined snipping stalks at sunset. Had that fantasy come with a straw hat and flat basket? Most of the seedlings had died, or if they survived, had soon got leggy and brown. But the mint grew obscenely, arrogantly. She’d thought it might struggle, being a soft herb, but it bushed at the end of the garden — alongside the toilet outlet pipe, truth be told, — with a pungent posture. It was like a group of youths, that mint bed, she mused. So verdant, so coarse, so plump with stink and so oblivious.
Just dead beetles – a drabble
She wandered in the garden. Both she and the garden were perfectly kept. Both were well manicured, beautifully styled and perfumed.
Roses bloomed in the sunshine. She turned to the birdbath and found that it was empty, dry and abandoned. No birds there, just dead beetles. Rust erupted around its cracked and broken edges.
As she looked back to the perfect garden an awful thought occurred to her. Did she have any dead, dry, abandoned places inside of her?
Was she like the story of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”? And, if so, how would she be able to tell?
Summer Drought – a Drabble
The cracked birdbath held little water. She wondered who filled it, or was it rain. The chaffinches couldn’t fly for the thirst of summer. How had they survived two hundred years? Rhodes missed English songbirds – only chaffinches survived. How did anything endure without help – the sycamores, the oaks? Her own garden? The neighbour taps water from his borehole, but her garden is a tinderbox. Now he wants her help. When he removed his hedge he saw her spring garden – the leucadendrons, the buddleias. He’s agreed to share his water. In return she will offer him plants and cut his grass.
Capitulation by Ttynnare Kneecss
(A ‘Drabble’ of exactly 100 words)
It was already February and she was running – still trying to catch up with last year. She noticed how the bracken lay bronzed and flattened by the heat. Things happen so fast. You wish for them, but then they rush forward and slip from your grip! She had so much planned for this summer, but it turned out differently. Now she felt wilted and worn out, the freshness of her expectations faded like the limp hydrangeas drained of their colour. She sat down under the big oak, ready to quit the race – then lay back in the shade and stretched.
Ashes to Ashes – A drabble
Ann looked at the parched patch on the lawn. It looked scarred, unhappy and desolate so close to the vibrant colour of Tom’s rose garden. Would the faded lawn ever recover? She hoped so. Tom would have loved to see his rose garden looking so splendid but its beauty was marred by the dead lawn in front of it.
When his family came in a few weeks’ time she would cover the patch with a table decorated with flowers, photos of Tom and the urn with his ashes to scatter over his beloved roses. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Arch in time – a drabble
In the garden waiting for her friend to bring tea. It’s a long time since she’s been in this garden. She gazes at the trellis archway vine-threaded.
A picture of a woman walking through the archway before a group of spectators appears. Bouquet in hand the woman steps in time to soft music.
Two men stand waiting. The woman looks only at the flowers in her hands. She stops in front of them looking up as a tear slips from her chin onto the flowers.
Here’s our tea. Are you crying?
‘Something flew into my eye while admiring your trellis.’
Reading it led to writing about things we like and love, the small, often unnoticed details about them, and what they help us to remember.
If you’d like to read Hikmet’s beautiful poem – here’s the link:
Things I Didn’t Know I Loved
it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird
(to read more, click on the lines above)
Sand in my panties
I never knew I loved the sea
growing up on mine dumps at high altitude
dry soil with gold dust
I never knew I loved the beaches, Clifton in
summer sun, ice water makes me lose my ankles
Plett’s lost beach, Lookout
that got swallowed by an angry river
snatching all my childhood memories
sand castles and rock pools
stolen sex on the whispering dunes
sand in your panties doesn’t feel too good
I never knew I loved the waves,
the curling walls of water that
boys surfed down while I bobbed over
the curves of the little waves
in the shallows, safe
I never knew I loved the smells
waking up to tingling fresh sea air
that brought a hunger for coffee and croissants
eaten overlooking an empty beach
after a long, long walk with wet toes
the smells of breakfast with the salty starfish brine
bacon and maple syrup and seaweed
I never knew I loved the sea, the beaches, the waves, the smells
when I was growing up on the mine dumps
at high altitude
Surprised by love
I’ve learned to love the sunrise – I used to sleep
long into the morning –
growing pains, childhood seemed so hard
to get up for school, to study early for exams
the frost still white on the lawn
the milk cart delivering milk and orange juice –
vitamin C in icy winter, the Western Transvaal
so cold the water froze – long icicles
from the garden tap, the bedroom windows all misted up –
I could blow a hole into it to see outside –
the dog’s paw marks as they tracked over the grass
his yellow piss a steaming puddle near the willow tree.
I’ve learned to love the night –
dark velvet sky, stars like holes punched into a blanket –
although some nights were frightening when my parents fought
their battles at the other end of the house.
I woke and held my breath – the shouting subsided
and then I heard the sound of my mother
feeling her way along the dark passage –
her hand dragging the wall. I still hear that sound some nights –
even though it’s over forty years ago.
I’ve learned to love the ocean – yet I lived
a thousand miles away and I only saw it once
a year – a seaside holiday in the Eastern Cape
and like an English child I had a net and a sunbonnet
and ate rock candy. I think I married
my husband because he lived by the ocean
and now we walk on the beach
every day – whales blow. We take our dogs
to Sunrise beach sometimes at sunset.
The moon rises there too –
I never knew I loved sunrise.
I never knew I loved sticks.
I thought of them straight and cutting, like schoolmasters.
But sticks can be mottled and gnarled,
even more beautiful than old people –
irregular, and useful in a way of sturdiness.
They make a shape out of longing, and sometimes
I have to wonder if they miss their trees.
I never knew I loved breathing,
except for Anne’s ‘three conscious breaths’, of course.
I’ve come to realise, though, you’ve got to love the other ones too.
The way they pass quietly down the corridors of your life –
just doing their jobs, without any rewards.
They make a living out of thin air; and maybe they get miffed
having to carry on so underappreciated.
I never knew I loved drops
In my recollection, they always gathered in stains.
But drops can be valiant, pot-bellied revolutionaries –
the way they hold out against the forces of gravity.
Every laugh is a drop, resisting before it falls.
They make tiny surprises out of plunging, so I’ve decided to collect them.
I don’t want to end up with a sad and empty bucket.
Eve in Kirstenbosch
It is strange how many things we love
yet do not know we love them
sitting with two sister writers
on a chilly rainy day in Touch of Madness
I discovered this love for cups
Having not known winters before
my blood pipes had gotten it frozen
corpses of words in their box
blue nails waited long in vain
to release the ink
This burning cup of white Rooibos
nearly finished my tongue
as I gulped a few sips
to restore the system
What would winter be like
without burning cups of tea?
In my childhood
I have listened to many birds
their chirps used to wake us up
in the morning
I learned the names of many of them
it all happened naturally
Today, pigeons and herons
are my favourites
their songs whether filtered or sandy
always attract me
I never knew I have passion for trees
many times I have stopped on my way
to watch their swaying boughs
or colourful blossoms
and felt a son of praise rise in me
I am Eve in Kirstenbosch Gardens
how I wish I could retain all the names
on the umpteen labels they wear
I like empty jars
their feminine look
the way they open up
waiting to be filled
with endless possibilities
Rivers are loveable too
their serpentine course
through mountains and plains
never closing an eye in the night
their rumbling, our lullaby
Raindrops are funny things to fall in love with
enchanting like bubbles
children all over the world know this better
how mayny get spanked
for playing in the rain?
Raindrops drumming on our roofs
imbibe us with heavenly bliss
As a child I have climbed many mountains
from home to school
from home to my auntie’s
from fome to my granny’s
there mountains everywhere
scary staircases to the infinite
There mountains here too
a look at this one in front of me
always takes me to the chains in me
the good thing about climbing mountains is
you always come back where you started
Could this be the beginning of passion for hiking?
A Long Haiku of Love
Sharing a smile
with a stranger
forgetting to be afraid
folded in your arms
I am a child again
love hides in the flowers
of the syringa tree
surprising me each spring
a window seat over Africa
red dust roads
aching in the sunlight
sharing a meal with strangers
under a syringa tree
barefoot in God’s garden
where fat bellied secrets
sprout from the seeds
of lost words.
I never knew I loved you this much …
I never knew I loved crystals so much
until I saw the light catch deep within them
far into the recesses of their infinite formations
and sunsets with you…
sitting side by side, holding hands, licking softserve
watching the sun sink its head below the horizon,
which reminds me of dad
who will die one day leaving everything behind
I never knew I loved him so much
He always said: you’ll only know how much when you have your own children…
and now, I do. Deep within my womb, it’s you.
Warm, soft and totally dependent on me.
I can’t see my life without you
I never knew I loved you this much.
I never knew I loved smells; paint, jasmine, sour rot, decayed flesh, coffee aroma.
From Colombia to Java, roasted beans infused with steam, sip crema,
swallow pure caffeine.
A surprise love; my lovers; I never knew I loved them all.
The shyest left daisies each morning. By chance I spied him,
tense with caution, place the yellow posy,
his six-year old fingers carefully arranging the crushed stems
in the hope I would love him back.
I never knew I loved mountains, framed by sea and sky,
white gulls daubed in the foreground,
evening light on the Hottentot Hollands. A lover’s caress.
Until I collected stones I never knew I loved jet,
black rock found in Whitby,
bevelled and drilled into jewellery.
I never knew I loved waters; discovered I too flow and ebb.
Each day, my tides synchronised with the planet’s oceans,
we both ruled by the moon.
I never knew I loved waves until I lived in my little house by the sea. The sound of the waves in the distance sometimes big and terrifying, other times lapping quietly against the shore.
I never knew I loved roses until I missed seeing them every Monday in the bathroom, a single red rose in a vase welcoming me back.
I never knew I loved roses until they arrived at random to tell me that he was in love with me. I never knew I loved them until they stopped coming and I knew what that meant.
I never knew I loved sunsets until I walked along the boardwalk and stood silently watching the sun go down behind the mountains, leaning into the arms of a kind, gentle, loving man who planned to watch many more sunsets with me.
I never knew I loved rocks until we sat together on the rocks enjoying the silence.
I never knew I loved hands until we fell asleep in the guesthouse, hands held across the gap between our single beds, so close, closer than if we had shared the same bed. Strong hands, hands to hold me, take care of me, support and protect me.
I never knew I loved cinnamon
The smell of it
wafting from a pot of simmering curry
or the feel of the hard brown bark
snapping between my fingers
leaving splinters of pungent smell
as I raise them to my mouth.
I knew I loved toddlers
tottering on widespread legs
trying to talk in words like ”úp”and ”more”
Toddlers with sticky fingers
on sugar highs
from too many sour worms.
Toddlers pressing car keys into draw locks
and beaming with pride
at the right move
though the wrong fit.
I never knew I liked smells
The metallic smell of commuter trains
sour seat covers
a prelude to some new destination
maybe to the smell of apple blossom
or sycamore or pine cones
fresh and new, carried on a crisp wind.
I never knew I loved dogs
Snuggling with dogs
feeling their soft fur against my chest.
I must love dogs
because I pick up their poo
even when it is under the washline
where I want to hang
my pristine white cotton sheets
without them flapping into brown puddles.
WhatI didn’t know, I know now
I never knew how much I treasured moments
Just single moments uncluttered by how I should be
Just a joyous moment with me in it, in this moment and no other
Just the me I am and no other
I know that now. That there are such moments.
I didn’t know I loved not knowing
not knowing the wild mystery of the unanswerable
For what more could there be to know about a stranger’s kindness
except that it was a gift with no expectations?
I know this now. That one is given such unencumbered gifts.
And for all those fretful years before the mirror
I never knew that it was not how I appeared that made you love me
but simply that because you loved me, you found me beautiful
your constancy a more faithful mirror than my ever fickle self-regard
I know it now. That there can be such love.
I can’t regret not knowing
It is by the empty heart that yearning learns its longing
only, the question haunts me.
What is it that I don’t know now of which in time to come
I will say: what I didn’t know I know now?
I didn’t know I loved strangers until I found myself awash with commuting crowds at Victoria Station and I on my suitcase. Or when I stepped on an aeroplane and flew amongst them to strange new lands.
I didn’t know I loved dew till today while watching it sparkle and move on grass blades being dried by the early sun. Can drops object to being evaporated?
I found I loved dew when my shoes squelch it up and my socks absorb it to wet my toes.
I didn’t know I loved dew until the blade on the rear window wiped it away to show the road I had travelled. Reversing out to go forward.
I didn’t know I loved geese, standing on chimneys, calling a warning, letting dog and I know we were seen. Their chest marks proudly pushed out and white flashes below wings as they land.
Mountains I loved on the Swartberg Pass
The ranges stretched on both hands
Away to touch the washed blue sky
I touched the tops
Glory to God rang out.