In the US you can see them in the mornings
bright beautiful mornings made for blending into the sheets
in SA you can see them in the evenings
say soft sunset evenings made for sips
or better yet
gulps of beer
they pant as they pound the pavement
the sweat dripping down their puffing cheeks
they look like they are in agony
I feel sorry for them
it’s like there’s some whip on their backs
lashing them and driving them along
like mongrel dogs
and they’re not really even in a hurry
they just run
perhaps count the heart rate
pace themselves for the marathon;
remember these people have other jobs during the day.
Surely there are more enjoyable ways to stay fit than this
quite a few in fact
and perhaps to the tune of a Tanzanian rumba
I will say to you sometime soon
run with me baby, run with me
we will sweat like the runners and laugh like the lovers
I am a couch
I am a couch.
I sit in the center of life
with sagging shoulders and threadbare bones
thinking of things now past
and the weight of what has sat on me.
I can accommodate so much of this
because I am strong and I am in tune with
the springs of a love supreme.
Not god, it bounces my way from a different domain.
I tap my toes on the tarnished timbers
of the hardwood below
and settle down like an old tree
turning to dust on the forest floor.
I am comfortable with my pain
and the worn tatters of that thing they call a heart
and the frayed edges of that thing they call a mind.
I’m sagging in the middle but I still offer repose.
I am a couch and there’s good times in me yet.
Come, have a seat.
Red Flannel Shirt
Passed down to me from my father
I used to see him out in the yard
raking the autumn leaves of New Jersey
that were all hues of orange and brown and yellow and
even ochre, and red
but nowhere near as red as that shirt.
He pulled the musty but still colorsprayed leaves from the gutters
looking like a semaphore himself
up there on that ladder,
throwing the tatters of the spring and summer
excesses of the oaks and maples and sycamores
and crabapples of our tiny suburban nature reserve
onto the walkway to be raked and broomed up later.
That shirt was symbol of fall
the chill bite in the air but still benign
touch of sun and fragrant odor of those leaves
those orange and brown and yellow
and red leaves.
For years that shirt was mine
usually hanging in a closet amongst
more popular shirts and sweaters.
For years I had no occasion to wear that shirt
the summers far too hot
and the winters barely winters at all,
but on coldish rainy nights
I put it on
and felt warm, and comfortable,
and quite bright.
My wife and daughter made relentless fun of me,
blaring all over the place
like a bullfighter’s cape.
But I respected that red flannel shirt
though I suppose I really respected its makers.
The shirt was old already when I was a child,
Now I’m 54 years old and I’ve gone
and lost that shirt.
Never hang things up in the country closets
of little hotel rooms;
many kilometers and days down the road
you will realize your loss
and know that it is irretrievable
like the water that runs down the rills
of mountain streams aching for the sea
and in a country like South Africa
that red flannel shirt will have been passed down yet again,
probably to someone who needed it far more.
But 40 plus years is a long time for a shirt to last
and I still see my father raking the orange and brown and yellow
and red leaves of a life long past
like I never knew him in our own house.
It’s a sunny summer’s morning
with a soft breeze blowing the banners
on the lot like the long hair of young girls.
We’re washing down a 2003 Isuzu
and Johann has the box blasting in the 2005 Mazda,
it’s loud bru,
the whole world is alive to the thumping,
you want to dance right there
maybe spray the flow from the hose
into the air like a shower of diamonds
to come clattering to the ground like castanets;
then this guy in a blue bathrobe
comes walking over
he’s got these fuzzy slippers on
with an AK-47 slung low along his side
his stride is sure and resolute
he walks up to the 2005 Mazda and hoists the AK-47
into the window and the world explodes
the sound rings into the distance
rolling up Bartholomew Street and down Beaufort.
Then it’s quiet, real quiet
like a new morning in a new world
and the guy walks off, still sure and resolute.
You never know what’s going to happen
on any given day
and on this day there we are;
and we still have to get the 2004 Opel cleaned up.