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Doug Downie

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Don't Look Behind You
by Billy Wells

My third compilation of 17 short stories mostly in the horror genre with surprise endings...  
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4 poems
by Doug Downie
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Rated "PG" by the Author.
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These poems appeared in January 2010 in Botsotso online ( Washing Cars appeared in print in New Contrast as well (December 2009) and perhaps requires a South African perspective.

The Runners


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

we are.



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.




Washing Cars


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

hair dishevelled

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.



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Under the Coolabah Tree by Wendy Laing

Fun, sometimes rowdy and always delightfully full of Australian colour. a collection of Australian Bush poems...  
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