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Volume 36 Number 1
South African Literary Journal Volume 36, No 1, March 2008
Published in association with the Centre for Creative Writing, UCT
Edited by HA Hodge
Special Literary Patron
Dr Z Pallo Jordan, Minister of Arts & Culture
André Brink, JM Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Dan Jacobson
Michael Cope, Geoffrey Haresnape, Paul Mills, Stephen Watson
Prof Rosemary Gray (University of Pretoria), Prof Craig MacKenzie (University of Johannesburg), Prof David Medalie (University of Pretoria), Sarah Rowan, Roy Robins, Prof Stephen Watson (University of Cape Town) New Contrast is a peer-reviewed journal published by the South African Literary Journal, a non-profit company limited by guarantee.
ISSN 8: 1017-5415 ISSN-13: 977-1017-54100-8
Business Manager Michael King Cover graphic ‘Queen goes to school’ by Mimi van der Merwe DTP by User Friendly Printed and bound by Tandym Print
We thank the following patrons and benefactors for their continuing support for the South African Literary Journal: RN Curry, Keith Gottschalk, Roy MacNab, I McGregor, D van Niekerk, Peter Visser, Mrs CA Wood and others who wish to remain anonymous.
but preferably the former. let me know. songs. Feedback: send me a letter by email or snail. I may be able to help. I cannot pay you beyond the two free copies of the magazine every contributor should receive. your university department to subscribe to this journal and others like it. a tale set in the south peninsula. We have poetry. and others elsewhere in the country or abroad. your school library. . Readings such as these have become more frequent if not more regular. do email me. At this stage. If you would like to know of events in your area. Please subscribe if you are not already a subscriber. short fiction and an essay. Two poets. some old friends. Ten of the poets in this issue have read their work at Off-the-Wall at A Touch of Madness. present us with work translated by the other. Subscriptions are our life-blood. Our covers this year are by Mimi van der Merwe whose work first appeared in Contrast in the sixties. I like to think that these ‘performance’ events spin off into widening the (poetry) reading and appreciation public. With Part Four we have reached midpoint of Silke Heiss’ new verse novel. Charl-Pierre Naudé and Gabeba Baderoon.Notes the invisible poem the invisible poem pre-exists so that the reader reading thinks ‘but that’s what I was thinking all along’ the poem anonymous on the fridge door like a tree that doesn’t know who planted it and the reader’s voice saying ‘but that’s exactly’ Robert Berold We begin 2008 with more of the same differences: some new voices. If you would like to write a review. Reviewers: I receive books for review regularly. Encourage your friends and family. The Griffin Elegy. Interesting comments or suggestions I will publish.
at newcontrastadm@gmail. but I have acquired a new domain.za. The New Contrast blog is live at http://newcontrast.com. Your comments on these matters are always very welcome.co. Hugh .com and to me at email@example.com. I monitor conversations there regularly. of course. And. our Business Manager. I will let you know when the web site has been reconstructed.new contrast Do note the old web page is not functional. you can send email to Michael King.
new contrast Contents Keith Gottschalk Graham Ellis Kobus Moolman Robert Balfour Alan Galante Jonty Driver Kelwyn Sole Charl-Pierre Naudé Gabeba Baderoon Eclipse The Circle of My Arm Namib Sunset As always Imfolozi Game Reserve Recollecting Durban I: Grey Street Recollecting Durban II: Berea Heights Toastmaster’s lament Lucubration In praise of the words of lovers Real Estate Die slaper en die stad The Dreamer and the City Axis and Revolution Kantelpunt Rain falls on the abstract world Dit reën op die afgetrokke wêreld Dance Beyond Our Means Fugitive Scatter These Ashes Phantoms of District Seven Loss poem #93 Couldn’t help myself. another one for Bukowski Menopouse Suburban epiphany # 636 Houses I have lived in After the deluge 7 7 8 9 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 22 23 25 26 27 28 29 29 31 32 33 34 35 35 36 Barbara Fairhead Jacques Coetzee Martin Jacklin Doug Downie Jane Bruwer Gus Ferguson Consuelo Roland Robert Berold on my father’s birthday Damian Garside Libretta at Prayer Karina Magdalena Szczurek Precaution 38 39 40 .
Michael Bardouleau Andie Miller Silke Heiss People
Masque Moving Across the Page The Griffin Elegy – Part 4
44 48 60 77
Eclipse when the earth’s shadow fell upon the moon you also went. at this end of your life a heavy black oxygen cylinder became the placenta threading its polythene umbilical cord to the mask over your nose unbirthing you into the womb of time.
The Circle of My Arm –After a visit to my mother– Beneath the circle of my arm My hand rests upon your shoulder. It is the sudden prominence of bone That reminds me how time Has pared away your flesh Has loosened the knot
That binds you To a world beyond. It is the sudden prominence of bone That makes me grasp At your shadow cast in a shortening day, At your firm frailty. For now you wear your final skin, All others you gave away.
Namib Sunset A kestrel balances On an updraft That lifts a veil From crest of dune. Sand filters Through an hourglass Of burnt black boulders. In a riverbed Camelthorns root For ancient rain. The equilibrium Shifts to darkness. This desert sunset Rests on the fulcrum Of my silent eye.
as before the wind sounds like water the water like wind through a field of long fingers. purple distance digging up lumps of cloud. as before the stones sound like silence the silence like stone left alone in a desert to pray. Imfolozi Game Reserve crooked thorn tree overlooking a green valley.new contrast Kobus Moolman As always As always. As always. white sky like glass sharpening the sun’s fingers. As always. 9 . as before the sky looks like the sea the sea like the sky without any skin but solid. black hawk hanging silent from a thermal.
And lights at night hallow orange huge ships in vapour. 10 . People pass on psalms on palms in mosqued arcades where roots or potions cluster near cloth and spices on easy terms with life.new contrast Robert Balfour Recollecting Durban I: Grey Street The vendor’s fruit cones the street into spirals of bananas and plums. A sticking heat fingers hairs on skin in oily sweat.
11 . Someone’s radio melodies ebb and siphon up sensual rhythms to sleeping ears. What shall we say of this age? That soil hardens – beyond – belief. Our frenzied passions are lost midst mass reproductions of unspectacular intimacy. and rain lingers no more but washes patterns clear away. At night from this height streets of brilliant light pour themselves into dark sluggish seas.new contrast Recollecting Durban II: Berea Heights Bolts of Java print lithe with dancers lie down in your room.
The unleavened word’s baked hard and fast into small print and pixelated form indelibly (im)printed on (un)conscious minds ricocheting round the dark globe resonating into action and reaction 12 . Like sutured silk he spins orotund orifice orates the last oily word inflected in this twist or slant and carried across on a long upward riff.new contrast Alan Galante Toastmaster’s lament On the platform amidst the ballyhoo he stands a real carnie spirit prevailing a celeb-politico suited freelanced and tied putting himself above and beyond the reach of the whole shebang hoping his little verities’ll all come home to roost one day returning like tired travellers waylaid from truth’s rich harvest.
Jonty Driver Lucubration The night has its own noises. unpeaceful and late. 13 . The wind is playing about in the blinds And a damnfool dog is barking. unpeaceful and late. And I am awake. and the surf On the beach below mutters its low But constant complaint. I stand in the doorway to see the curve Of the bay shaped like a crescent below. it’s only to start once more.new contrast polemic-babble-gospel-key only words connecting to simplified deeds. barking – When it stops. The house is asleep And I am awake. An inkling it’s neither here nor there in the long run just killing time all rehearsed image improvising credibility pre-empting the toastmaster’s lament and another after-meal deluge. unpeaceful and late. Then up to where the constellations sweep – And I am awake.
new contrast When I try closing my eyes. Your words are a tame dog’s lone vigil. By negation we are diminished Into half-hearted foundlings. And I am awake. snuffling and creaking with sleep – And I am awake. sideways shining And shifting. both peaceful and late. The brandy bottle is almost finished. unpeaceful and late. The beach is empty too. and the wind pummels the door. Kelwyn Sole In praise of the words of lovers Mine are a broken window. unpeaceful and late. moonlight finds Its way through the window. and the whole house Is snorting. are scabby cats can’t stop craving above all else to be stroked. of whose place There is much forgetting. 14 . Your words are a shattering necklace. They’re wings seared off of their moth. Mine. My words are a shout in a quarry. a forced lock that now rusts. henpecked old roosters. They’re hoarse. My words are the ashes that scatter and rail once their fire is gone. Out in the deep Are many who sleep.
mortar. lives quietly within till all loud sounds are tamed. acquiesce to the shape of a house. A cellphone lullabied to sleep. are a ball of frayed twine dropping down like a riddle to unspool and unspool on the floor. 15 . nails. A hand hit by a hammer heals.new contrast They’re a bucket brimming with water with a hole that mocks at all thirst. Real Estate Again and again the rivets. just fly-palaces for glutted lust – they lie there. The heartrending cries of a baby. inert. Your words are a collar of dandruff. A fork is dropped. Our words can no longer be spoken – words that are figs long since fallen.
till nothing spills into the street. No one senses the frustration that’s building there. It’s just that old lovers may change their minds more quickly than their homes. As her consolation he will go to work. Around it all the wind politely bends. Immobile stone. can be faintly heard. quite heedlessly. the lies and anger of each day start to bounce inside from wall to wall. and goes on its way.new contrast Later. that lurks like a man with a dull knife wearing black at night so no sun can betray him. rust is too slow and damp too sly for anyone to fret about – it’s really not the house prompts their fear. 16 . In any case.
van die netwerk van tonnels onder die stad wat in dae van ouds soos die waterweë was. gedroomde Venesië. soos die paling van ’n courtisane se serp. en van vergete: ’n kabbeling skielik. ’n spieëlbeeld van die rooster van stadstrate. bo. wat weerkaats in die water. ’n skemerige. 17 . gemoffel in die opslae van ’n rot. (waar toeristebootjies later kortstondig sou vaar) ’n labirint. of klokkegelag. gewelfde gange en vertakkings het ’n seekat van blinde water geklots in nou rioolbeuke. onderaardse.new contrast Charl-Pierre Naudé Die slaper en die stad Antwerpen. 2006 Die slaper sluit sy oë dig soos deksels oor konstruksiegate – en droom diep. In die bouwerk van lang. die toegeplankte stad.
skimme almal. wat haar kettings slaaplopend sleep oor die vlakwaterspieëls van ’n paleis … meerminne. die dromer wat met trappies af vlug na benede. onderwêreldse inkvisse sonder ink. tafels. maar die drome bly kleef. beskou as besete want sy kon ruik met haar voete nes ’n vlinder. is: ’n kelderrestaurant.new contrast ’n koopmansdogter. En dis hy. en sy klippies bedoel vir háár en sy lewe in ’n tweegeveg in die stroom verloor het. Die kerkers is lánk reeds leeg gepomp. bloedlose. blind en gebottel in die toegeboude gragte. kerslig – skimme. wat liefdeloos stamp teen die kiele … Vlermuise. waar die mure met hul sepia geheue ook versinners van ons. in 1547. soos merels wat spikkel teen ’n baksteenhemel. die klante. hý wat op die naat staan van dié twee wêrelde – die jong handelaar. Ek wentel met die trappies af die gerestoureerde wande van die wakker ure binne. Ek word wakker. 18 .
In the long. soos die sprinkeling blink klippies wat gestort is lank gelede en bly dryf. en oorkant my háár oë wat steeds blink bewoë. an octopus of blind water throbs in thin sewage aisles. 2006 (‘Die slaper en die stad’ translated by Gabeba Baderoon) The dreamer shuts his eyes tight as manhole covers and dreams deeply. of the network of tunnels below the city that long ago were like waterways. mirror of the grid of city streets above. 19 . The Dreamer and the City Antwerp. bly dryf in die water wat hier was.new contrast ’n Glinstering van oë soos vuurvlieë bo ’n moeras. vaulted passages and their tributaries.
the dreamer 20 . for a brief time. knocking lovelessly against the keels. like a butterfly.new contrast (where later. Bats. like crows dappling a brick sky. sightseeing boats plied) a labyrinth. dragging her chains while sleepwalking across the shallow water-mirrors of the palace. named mad because she could sense smell with her feet. Mermaids. subterranean. at the fault-line between the worlds. or a peal of laughter muffled in the scuttling of rats. underworld ink-fish without ink. like the eel of a courtesan’s scarf reflected in the water. A sudden ripple. the young merchant. blind and caught in the enclosed canals. dream-Venice. a merchant’s daughter. a dusky. And it is he. bloodless. a city paved over and forgotten.
phantoms everyone. where the walls with their sepia memories invent us. I wake. 21 . I wind down the stairs past the restored walls. still drifting in the water of the past. like the scattered. enter the vaulted room and the waking hours. and opposite me. her eyes.new contrast who fled down the stairs and lost the little stones intended for her. Glittering eyes like fireflies over a swamp. candlelight – phantoms. the patrons: in a cellar-restaurant. still glistening with despair. glinting stones that fell here so long ago but are drifting. but the dreams remain. and his life in a duel in the stream in 1547. The dungeons have long since been pumped dry. tables.
slips the catch of the lock. the sun in rain. screen of reflections. Stiff glass sail catches a sudden clip of wind. I gleam against the windows facing. windows of the houses opposite. Through glass skin. opening a dark glint of entry to your house. the end of its half-circle. glass door against glass wall. rainstreaks. fingerprints. trees. the door fans its cards of mirrors. invited in. me watching. I am inside. swings slowly open. 22 . its own reflection. reflections on reflections. reflecting a compass of sky. seamless turning. turning outside into inside. gathers speed to whip wide toward a tipping-point. In the door. Flashing glass on glass. axis and revolution.new contrast Gabeba Baderoon Axis and Revolution Glass door in a glass wall.
Did I see your hand reach the door in time. slams backward against glass. quivering. cracking and splaying on impact.new contrast Across the way behind my own reflections. into the rooms. sealed. veer 23 . skerm van weerkaatsings. you’ll never find all of me. Search as you will. stay. Fastened. Kantelpunt (‘Axis and Revolution’ vertaal deur Charl-Pierre Naudé) Glasdeur in ’n glaswand. heading home to the lock again. vingermerke. reënstrepe. hurtling across the threshold. click it fast. Stretching its hinge. Or right through. glip verby die knip van ’n slot. glass door giving back what it keeps outside. past the curtains. ringing. I am too far to run and catch the door before it reaches the end of its span. Some splinter of light will elude you. the door scrapes wall only briefly then springs back.
In glas wat op glas flits waaier die deur sy spieëlkaarte oop. en terug. sonlig in die reën. kaats ’n porsie van die hemel. die halfsirkel wat sluit. draai. In die deur glim ek op die vensters anderkant. en ’n kier na jou huis oopbeur wat donker glinster. glasdeur op glaswand. kaatsing op weerkaatsing wat naatloos buitekant na binne draai. is ek binne. al hoe vinniger na die kantelpunt om wydoop te klap teen sy eie weerspieëling. Gespanne glas-seil vang ’n skielike wiek wind. 24 .new contrast traag oop op sy as. ek wat toekyk. en bome. Deur ’n vel van glas word ek ingenooi. ruite van die kothuise oorkant. snel op vaart. Oorkant die paadjie agter spieëlings van myself is ek net te ver om te hardloop om die deur te vang voor dit sy spanwydte oorskrei en agteruit met ’n swiep teen die glas slaan.
op pad terug na die slot weer. on the night. Het ek jou hand net betyds sien uitreik. verseël. Rain falls down the gutters. skraap die deur die wand vlugtig en bons terug. 25 . sidderend. of dwarsdeur. En soek sal jy soek. die kamers ín. The rain falls on the stones. verby die gordyne. waar dit in ’n sprei van krake met ’n slag oor die drumpel kletter. ’n glasdeur wat teruggee dit wat dit buite hou. maar my nooit in al my stukke vind. die deur op knip sit? Vasgehaak.new contrast Skarniere wat trek. weergalmend. Rain falls on the abstract world after a print by Frans Masereel The rain falls until nothing is itself. funnelling into the sloot. ágterbly. ’n Skerfie lig sal jou bly ontwyk.
Rain falls on the loneliness of the world. its angles steeper than the roofs. op die nag.new contrast Rain falls through the gleam of the streetlight and on its long shadow. 26 . Die reën val op klippe. Rain falls on the doorways and on the empty thresholds. The rain falls against the slats of shutters and on the darkness of the windows. Dit reën op die afgetrokke wêreld na ’n afdruk van Frans Masereel (‘Rain falls on the abstract world’ vertaal deur Charl-Pierre Naudé) Die reën sak uit totdat niks meer homself is nie. Reën val op die glimmering van die straatlig en op dié se lang skadu. Die reën stort by geute af en weg met die sloot. The rain slants the straight walls of the houses.
Reën val op die eensaamheid van die wêreld. Reën val op die deuringange en op die leë drumpels. The day she gave her heart to him. so very nearly wolf: But come to meet in a foreign place Through creaturely recognition. That gangly Nureyev: gave over her will: Fixed that white and wolf-like mask. He. a Celtic mix of blood and dark And poetry. Die reën val teen die hortjies van die luike en op die donker van die vensters. an animal of Ireland: She. It was a dance they did that day. Gave her will to that tall man. The ice-blue eyes on his: and never faltered.new contrast Die reën hou die helling van sy val steiler as die dakke s’n. of the far north. Barbara Fairhead Dance I don’t know which was the more wild: An even pair. so matched were they. 27 .
spendthrift candle at both ends. And he not crippled with pain. Indelible. And the years between not flown. And she not dead. look away from the faces of the clocks That curdle desire and make us add up the years: Everyone knows the stars are bright Because they go dark by day. And that a thousand years from now We will laugh just like this and burn The same brief.new contrast I have the print of it behind my eyes. 28 . Jacques Coetzee Beyond Our Means You say that for us time is so short: But what time could be long enough For us who love so far Beyond our means? Come. Can see the dance as though it were yesterday.
new contrast Fugitive You are beautiful today Moving unseen by me in the next room Paying attention to what is at hand So fugitive beauty is Hiding far from our clutter That I will smile to myself Maybe fifty years from now In a room somewhere or out in the sun Thinking how it had to be this way When we were already late to get somewhere And I scribbling this day And its beauty for you Against the years and the clutter Scribbling it behind time’s back Oh borrowed beauty stay with me this night Martin Jacklin Scatter These Ashes Scatter these ashes all to dust in the bright and glowing wind Fly from the sky the silent moon through hallowed halls turned outside in (chorus) 29 .
30 .new contrast I left my sword deep in the heart of the dark red human wave Returned from that other room laughing my deepest darks colouring my face (chorus) The pitter patter of feet after me the footprints of those that lie ahead Allow no conscious compromise to trespass where you hide your head (chorus) There are no words left for those who allow everything to happen just falling through Satan’s world the tube of life without touching sides (chorus) Fly from the sky the silent moon through hallowed halls turned outside in.
(chorus) We are the phantoms of district seven. You are trespassing on the backs of your children And your children’s children’s children’s children We are the phantoms of district seven Kap another button. Come for you and your children’s children.new contrast Phantoms of District Seven We are the phantoms of district seven. You are trespassing on the backs of your children 31 . We are the phantoms of district seven. in urgent need of relocation. in urgent need of relocation. Come for you and your children’s children’s children’s children. kap another button In quayludes and red wine We wait for you in between the lines We are the phantoms of district seven So rudely interrupted on our way to heaven We are the phantoms of district seven And we will haunt you Beyond the grave (chorus) We are the phantoms of district seven flit the agterstraatjes chasing women We are the phantoms of district seven.
this is my walk to the post office to open yet another empty box. now the weight returns like another bloody cold front coming on from Cape Town and I miss you and see you walking the streets of that American town so far from here. The day has been fine so far but now. I don’t know why this agony returns every day as the clock strikes one or why it’s so difficult to reunite with you but more than miles separate us. so far. and its not so much the ocean but the obstacles not so much the continents but the constraints 32 . We are the phantoms of district seven So rudely interrupted on our way to heaven We are the phantoms of district seven And we will haunt you Beyond the grave (chorus) Doug Downie Loss poem #93 I walk the streets of this African town with women carrying boxes of oranges on their heads and the road a mad chaos of slow strollers oblivious of two ton tins captained by crazed pirates. Every day.new contrast And your children’s children’s children’s children.
33 . Couldn’t help myself. the stories of the losers are the stories of humanity. I don’t stand a fucking chance. mostly though most wouldn’t see it that way. another one for Bukowski Someone who once said all he wanted to do was to sit alone up in some room against the wall with a bottle watching a fly on the wall is someone who was describing depression that deep dark depression that only the lost can feel only the hopeless can get so blue as to be frozen that literature spoke of this and to that and it spoke from the mind of a boxer and the heart of a survivor and the soul of an imp and through all the grit it gave hope to the forlorn and trapped who are everywhere.new contrast and as I walk through this African town on a sunny summer’s day with dozens of bright bandanas blazing like flowers in a meadow I feel like a fly trapped in a web and my heart sinks like a stone into the muck of some polluted pool. What is this spider that has captured me and bound me in its threads? The spider is called paradox and the prime rate and woven into this web of loss.
perhaps he was simply some buddha type describing the bliss of absolutely nothing nothing and nothing.new contrast or. Jane Bruwer Menopouse ek het daaraan gewoon geraak: smal en ongerieflik klein my enkelbed aanvanklik koud onvriendelik die matras van skuimplastiek maar later eindeloos meer aanvaar as jou omhelsing warm en klam waarin jy my. eensaam en vervreem in jou dubbelbed gevange hou 34 .
They are almost always exceptionally tall with several floors and underground vaults 35 . a full-sail fleet of snails tacking across the grass. Like ships they lift and dip and topple through the waves. in a garden moist with summer mist. I noticed. in sudden focus.new contrast Gus Ferguson Suburban epiphany # 636 This morning while bending to gather dogturds. Consuelo Roland Houses I have lived in The best houses I have lived in and loved in and almost died in are the houses that rise unbidden from the swamps of unkempt dreams.
its subterranean chambers waterlogged Yet another stood skew as Mother Hubbard’s old shoe. So we sat glumly in the old opel station-wagon up to our ankles in muddy water waiting for help to come and the flood-waters to abate. And I have pursued such treasure as cried out to be found. They have come to me ready formed.new contrast with stairs leading to water of unplumbed depths and little rivulets. the drip-drip silence of the Pongola river that burst its banks seeping in the imaginary drone of the cavalcade of water-tight bakkies and trucks long-gone. One stood in the gardens at Versailles. After the deluge After the deluge came the silence the thick clumpish silence of family thoughts like ancient yellowed polenta turned anti-clockwise. with all the aplomb of a Fabergé egg. its staircases crooked and its cupboards empty With a lover’s stealth I have dwelt in such overnight houses. Another loomed. 36 . a chilly Edgar Allan Poe masterpiece.
breached national barriers with relaxed discourse and discovered commonalities. To this day there has been no other veranda 37 . Serendipity – if we ever knew his name I have forgotten it now – delivered the note and rescue descended with evening in the form of a truck with a grinning Portuguese road builder. he must have decided our source to be benevolent and agreed to deliver a note to his bosses with a smile that broke through the last lingering storm clouds with definitive force. while our parents. frame of our devastation. we reached a lamp-lit hill-top. much later. with the echoes of bottomless voids carried to our ears. the rope and my father tense as tensile steel as he steered us grimly upward into that thick emulsion of moonless night. when we’d almost given up Serendipity arrived in a white starched kitchen-boy uniform balanced precariously on a bicycle that wobbled over gutted gravel the only man for miles around on that flood-ravaged plain stick legs. his eyes white and wide and rolling as if not sure of the intentions of our source. around blind bend after blind bend. Late that endless day become evening. one foot on the soaked dirt road. seated in comfortable chairs on that eagle’s eyrie. leaning on his bicycle. That old station wagon was a survivor of note. after midnight at least. but after some conversation through the halfopen window. his studious concentration disturbed by the sight of a white family stranded on the side of the road in a grey steel machine defeated by the enormity of its task nature’s vagaries sometimes too extreme even for those stout of heart. We four kids – two Portuguese and two Italian – raced bicycle on a veranda that ran almost full-circle around that self-same house. Towed by our new friend we climbed a bad dirt road higher and higher into thin-aired darkness.new contrast Later. In daylight we saw the house was built on giant rocks above a precipitous gorge. scattering them asunder and eradicating damp misery with a radiant helpful light. knees black as pitch. He stood a little away from us. A house with sandwiches and beds of crackling white sheets mushroomed magically out of the inky patina of the Pongola bush with its sentinel wild cat cries.
quite as astonishing to the senses – it was an African veranda as wide as a kraal. 38 . close or far. what music he would play to calm his nerves. That same day the old opel was fixed by the construction crew mechanic. it was a sport field and a treehouse and a castle. a clockwise pensive silence. my father patting my mother on the knee as she gazed out the window at the drenched earth and the sunlit thorn trees. I wonder about the music that he danced to. the army major who was once a ballroom dancer. how would we have known how to recognise heaven when we saw it? Robert Berold on my father’s birthday I sometimes wonder about my father. It will go better than before. the way the pioneers do things when they are out alone in the bush. if we had not been evicted from that sheltering harbour of timeless peace and grace. but we made no sound. but now I see things differently. grownups and children. our Portuguese saviour said with cheerful determination as my father eyed the narrow gravel road that would take us back down to civilisation. a lounge and a dining room and a conversation altar.new contrast quite as majestic. We should have been happy to be on our way to our holiday by the sea. like canoes or giant seed pods never to be washed up on shores. For years I thought of it as the silence of those who have seen Shangrila and lost it. until our arms grew sore with waving. the necessary spare part manufactured from steel bits and pieces. We waved and waved and waved. everything could be done on that veranda. as we drove away. a miraculous river of polished stone that flowed endlessly taking us with. it was a different family silence. how would we have carried the memory of that place with us through life.
full transcendence. said my father. I sometimes wonder how he felt or feels after his death. Damian Garside Libretta at Prayer Libretta prays to her lord of hosts sends her wish-list express to the prince amongst lamb eaters longs for a time of unswerving affirmation.new contrast wiping out the past takes a peculiar strength. total holy deal when will he be revealed as the one true (sky soup-thick. my father built a solid house for us and there we lived for 27 years. religion. was a load of mumbo-jumbo. he wasn’t lonely enough to come back as a ghost or happy enough to touch me with a current of pure being. boiling with commandments) 39 . facing nothingness requires resilience.
thank you. 40 . and put the alarm on before she left the cottage. no trouble. She met Bongani. She grabbed her notebook. No handbag. with some cash and a debit card. trying to beat up a storm about the wave of violence in the country. complete and infinitely more explicable than that dull wooden surrogate to which she has given all her life with whom she has shown so much patience. Nina yawned. She switched off the radio. Her editor was pleased with her initiative. Karina Magdalena Szczurek Precaution Violence is out of hand. one of her newspaper’s photographers. in front of Ann Shaw’s house. A human rights activist was next on the list for this week. gulping down the last sips of coffee. He was waiting in his pink Tazz. made sure that she had all the details of her next victim. stuffed them into her jeans pocket. nothing New in South Africa. He did not see her approach until she opened the passenger’s door and got in. She took her keys from the desk in the passage and. engrossed in one of the science fiction novels he always carried around with him.new contrast his truth now more rich. She was working on a series of interviews with victims of crimes and prominent people concerned about the recent developments.
‘pass today. you don’t know her? She is. I never had the pleasure. you know. I will let the YOU PEOPLE.’ ‘Bongani! Wake up and smell the coffee! Ann Shaw. The famous anti-apartheid activist. ‘Unless the Force is with you. Nina felt her hand damp on the notebook. ‘You should really lock your doors. she is not exactly press-friendly.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Ann Shaw. ready to press the front gate button. or not?’ ‘She is eighty!’ Bongani pretended to be disappointed and started pulling his camera bag from underneath Nina’s feet. So beware and take some of that Force with you. It was already dark. Tony. So is she attractive. She took a deep breath and moved around the car to join Bongani. ‘Why Dragon Lady?’ ‘Let’s just say. Nina. She had her dinner in front of the computer. sorry to disappoint you.’ ‘Whatever. my lightsaber’s ready. ‘So. spelled in capital letters.’ They got out of the car. Even here in this neighbourhood.’ he made the inverted commas sign with his fingers. ha. 41 .’ He put the book away on the back seat. the only alarm-proof pet she could think of. You scared me!’ ‘Hi!’ she smiled. You must have heard of her!?’ ‘Nope. who was making faces at the intercom camera. but I heard some gruesome stories. Before my time. Miss You-Know-It-All. ‘Ha. Common then.’ ‘Never heard. the Dragon Lady. was staring at her through the glass bowl next to her laptop screen. who is on this morning?’ ‘Ann Shaw.new contrast ‘Jesus. the Peace Nobel Prize winner of 1986.’ ‘Funny.’ She glanced at the row of old Victorian houses seaming the street. Is she pretty?’ ‘You people! How come. like – HUGE.’ She smiled at the chewed-up paperback edition of the old Star Wars trilogy he was holding.
that I would pay. All I could think of was my baby. He even made the woman she had interviewed first for the series comfortable. And her incredible presence of mind. Alone at home. One of them hit my wife in the face and I could do nothing. Shaw was not as formidable and difficult as she had expected. Recently. She had the photographs in front of her on the screen. and surprisingly attractive after all. Yes. he kicked me and called me names. It was hard to take at times. too. How do you feel about it today? I get these dreams about fighting back. this morning’s interview went well. straight to the point. about protecting my wife. alright. because of HIV. There were five of them. Nina felt swamped with all the stories. her husband away on business. She was six months pregnant at the time of the attack. only twenty. The next day I sat down to write the book. It all happened so quickly. My makhulu is eighty. He was begging for money. Nina felt that Shaw had really responded to her. When he started unbuckling his belt. In between the mouthfuls Nina paged through her last two interviews in search of a new approach for Ann Shaw. I’ll protect you. And Bongani did a brilliant job. running away from me. yet he was the best photographer they had. letting them be. but it felt like an eternity. You know. No wonder Ann Shaw was furious. It’s a terrible mess. the shopping bag clutched tightly to his chest. I asked him to use a condom. a year ago. my friend. This lady is sexy!’ All the preparation and the rather sleepless night before the interview were worth the trouble. And I did. Blank. terribly eloquent. No nonsense. about twelve. he seems so innocent at times. when we came out of the shop. assaulted the guests and the manager. especially when we see him with his friend or the old beggar. he said for food. please God. The attacker miraculously obeyed. He was bloody young. I encountered a boy. With guns. she had written a few 42 . Fortunately.new contrast ‘Don’t worry. If anything happens. In your latest novel the protagonist is a street kid. but he is also extremely ruthless. One of her eyes still swollen from the blows delivered to her face. Even Bongani was impressed: ‘I thought you said she was eighty. He had a way with people.’ She tapped the bowl with her fork. and capturing their essence without interposing. So I took him to a nearby shop and told him to get what he wanted. and she actually smiles in one of the photographs they printed with the article. They spread around the restaurant. don’t let me lose my baby.
The lack of sleep was getting to her. especially if Nobel Prize winners were the authors. You want to run away – don’t really know from whom or what – but you can’t with your feet glued to the ground.’ ‘Don’t let her hear you say that!’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Nothing. Shaw’s hoarse voice and her sarcasm: You know what is the worst? Hearing victims say how glad they are to be alive. but I just got the news from my pal at the station. ‘Nina. Nina was tired. Is your Shaw article ready?’ ‘No. You said I had until tonight. thank god. sorry to wake you up so early. Why?’ ‘Ann Shaw was attacked in her house last night. More and more voices speaking up in a wave of disappointment. Irony of fate. she updated her backup copy and put the memory stick in a cookie jar in the kitchen. One of those dreams. A change of mood. don’t let me lose my baby.’ Nina was awake instantly. Almost. The international media were sucking up all the reports coming from the country. ‘Don’t let the bed bugs bite you. Maybe you can see her again?’ ‘You’ve got to be kidding! Ann Shaw? Of all people!’ ‘I know. Then she put the laptop in a cabinet drawer and locked it for the night. It hurt most when it came from people like Shaw.’ ‘No respect for anybody anymore. I know. Interrupted by a vicious sound somewhere in the background. As if that wasn’t their God-given right. Everything in slow motion. Tony!’ She took the panic button with her to the bathroom. the lack of proper response from the authorities a crime in itself.new contrast scathing articles herself. Now. once again one of the worst evils – nobody in the government willing to deliver us from it. Silence. ‘I want you to phone her and try to get a comment. I just have to tie up a few points. Was she hurt?’ ‘No. who had always defended the Miracle. So what happened exactly?’ 43 . they felt they couldn’t anymore. Please God. She saved the file with the first part of the interview. Nina thought.
But she promised to get back to her as soon as possible. Michael Bardouleau Masque If sixteen was as young as everybody said it was. lovey?’ ‘A ticket to Australia. ‘Sorry?’ ‘No.? See what you can get. So. A packet of condoms please. They must have known that the two women were alone in the house. masked but unarmed. laptop. jewellery. why the hell did he feel so old? Well. forced their way into her house through the back door when the domestic was bringing out the garbage. On her way to the office. some money. She put the others in the cubbyhole and drove on to work. Ann Shaw did not want to comment. not old really: it was more like frustration at time spent … hours dedicated to living one life whilst displaying another. ‘What can I get you. please.’ She hung up and stared at the panic button next to her bed.’ In the car. I’m sorry.’ ‘And? What did they do? Take?’ ‘The usual: cell phone. phone her O. Sorry again for waking you up. It wasn’t true. she took one out of the box and stuffed it into her jeans pocket.’ ‘Six. Nina thought her voice sounded much more placid today. Nina stopped at the chemist. Coffee is on me today.’ ‘You mean loot some more?’ ‘You know what I mean. or twelve?’ ‘Six. two men.new contrast ‘Around eight.K. what his mother had promised: that in time all becomes 44 .’ she mumbled under her nose. no.
her necklace jangling indignantly. Coiled snakes of green beads clacked as they wound up her arm and her eyes arrested her: painted whiteness brushed with spreading wings in purple. He was satisfied to play the waiting game. sounding 45 . there’s the old sparkle coming back again. sixteen wasn’t young. or would she fly? ‘Saying you’re the same would be like saying that code all printed out on paper is equivalent to the execution of said code in its native programme’s environment!’ A sly wink. Now it was time to test her new work. ‘And that would make you a very stupid old cow. then. allowed her a knowing glance … ‘Ah. *** ‘It’s Whoricia’. No. ‘Whoricia Carnavale’. ‘Oh stop second-guessing yourself. and that is very old indeed.’ People laughed appreciatively. what his mother had said. But throw on some jewels. now wouldn’t it?’ One or two people laughed along with her dry chuckle. perhaps a bit of satin. Funny old thing. Perhaps it was true. In fact it always stayed the same – so unchangeable and futile that the world and the air skulked. and before you know it you change in entirety!’ Her reflection softened. hidden deep in the scarlet mists of his reality. To Toes Spartan it was permanent.new contrast resolved. Would she stumble. Perhaps everything really is just a matter of time. the transvestite announced as she extended her limenailed fingers towards the apparition in the mirror. ‘You’ve made your decision.’ she snapped into the glass. He snapped his coat-sleeves straight in the cold moonlight and stared his defiance up to the stars. that hardware … you always did prefer it over soft. though it was a gag nearly as old as time. The doppelganger stared at her so hard that her caramel face disappeared: only two black irises remained that laid her wide open with their knowing. now live with it! I told you all that fiddling around with bits of hard and software could never really have made you happy.
She’d already missed the first act and she was keen to miss no more. ‘They could’ve at least sent some of it to me. *** The potato tang of vodka froze her nose in the night as she arrowed her way to the theatre. and not even bother to change. He deliberately ignored the call for next curtain and flicked his cigarette’s ash out over the edge of the railing. she’d recalled: somewhere reminiscent of Iran. Perhaps she’d been foolish to try. she heard the interval bell ring. the sooner he went back in the sooner he’d have to clasp some ballerina’s hips in a travesty of how he’d like to be held – the object of his angry affection only two steps away: his ribbony muscles stretched taut in their masculine sway. some spam email … mountains of beautiful bottles laid to waste in the sand. *** 46 . She’d best get this show over with because afterwards she’d go to the ballet. *** The interval bell’s ring shocked Toes from his reverie. The dresser and its candles were a privately lit haven. The darkness around her was quite complete. ‘Most inconsiderate to waste it all. then liquid tinkling and pouring – she hadn’t realized her hands had been shaking. Besides. starting to puff in her haste. The audience’s gentle rumbling lent some sound to the air.’ she muttered. They could wait. Passing the ballet’s great gate. As expected. The taste of booze reminded her of the photographs she’d seen earlier. She swore demurely. That had been in Tehran. soldiers emptying them and throwing them around.’ And on top of it she’d left her ciggies at home.new contrast with the clink of glass on glass. then saw the entrance doors swing to with a bang. they didn’t really get it.
frozen-black roads. ‘It’s about cheese-slicers. That was a private thing. that he would never admit. 47 .’ Spyke thought of his own audience that day and their decidedly lowbrow expectation. He didn’t feel like going in. then paused. ‘I like everyone in the ballet. and some lines should never be crossed. Strange. jangling figure had come hurtling around the corner and then stopped – her sparkling. ‘To hell with it all. ‘It just took me a while to catch on to their strange sense of humour. It showed that he knew himself intrinsically – no crises of self would ever lead him astray. but his rage had turned inevitably to tears. all shall be revealed. in a way … he’d been able to do something that his endlessly-talented son could not. saffron lips forming a perfect ‘O’. It’s like your mother says: in time. ‘Toes!’ ‘Father. ringing. Though to the boy. But those slight wounds will heal. He fought off a brief pang of shame. Neither stopped nor turned. A bright. sitting.’ he replied with some zeal. He was relieved.’ He didn’t ask the girl’s name with whom Toes was infatuated. instead of crying. He was just pleased that his son was a performer too: dedicated to living one life whilst displaying so many others.’ he thought. that he spoke often of boys. ‘A few drunken sandwiches have cost me my skin. The night turned warmer then as the two figures wound their way home along slicked. In the distance behind them applause could be heard: a distant explosion. who in another life was called Spyke Spartan.’ *** ‘So he hadn’t gone on to the stage after all. my boy. He liked to believe he’d played no small part in that. though.new contrast The stage doors closed with a clang and Toes remained. It would have helped if he had been angrier.’ thought Whoricia.’ the boy responded to his questions on romantic concerns: the signs of which were written all over his face.
A Sinless Season. I mean. Your mind has to stay on what you’re doing. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that’s deeply satisfying. For her the solution was a pencil. which is possible for him when he is walking and alone. the work. He describes it now as ‘not a book I’m very proud of ’ and ‘too way back in the mists for me to dredge up’ but even then he touched on his recurring theme of walking. was published. with an unconscious part of your mind. which sets the rest of my mind free to work in a very particular way.’ ‘I spend at least a portion of every day walking.’ Funnily enough. ‘He preferred to be alone and in motion. I’ll create a mission to go down to the shops to get something I don’t really need. ‘No one perhaps has ever felt passionately towards a lead pencil. ‘not allowing his body to solidify into the restrictions of companionship or stillness.’ he tells me. I’m always very restless if I sit in the same place for too long.’ ‘It’s about the rhythm of the walk.new contrast Andie Miller Moving Across the Page Half a lifetime ago at the age of just 19 Damon Galgut’s first novel. one can’t drive a car without thinking about it. he is unfamiliar with Virginia Woolf ’s wonderful essay.’ he wrote. whereas with walking you can actually do it automatically. in which she describes this dilemma. and I think it was a way of escaping. I guess.’ More recently. ‘But there are circumstances in which it can become supremely desirable to possess one. moments when we are set upon having an object. but that impulse has never entirely left me. in other words. but I persuade myself I do. as a writer. to get away from sitting still. It’s partly to do with the fact that you can do it without having to think about it. So the two are really inseparable.’ Now. ‘the impulse to get away from home is sort of grafted onto the impulse to think about what I’m doing at home. an excuse for walking half across London 48 . ‘There’s a certain security and comfort associated with it. It started in mid-adolescence when things were quite unpleasant at home.’ she wrote. So that’s very often what I do if I’m stuck. ‘Street Haunting’. his story ‘The Follower’ begins: ‘He is intensely happy.
I would not be able to make any observations or studies at all . a very dubious income. Shut in at home. and my profession. I would be dead. without walking and gathering reports. ‘Permit me to inform you.’ Rebecca Solnit.’ she muses. Also.… On a lovely and far-wandering walk a thousand usable and useful thoughts occur to me.’ was my answer.’ as if under cover of this excuse we could indulge safely in the greatest pleasure of town life in winter – rambling the streets of London. let alone a real long story. which I love passionately. Wariness of the stranger entering or passing through. ‘I definitely must. as a poor writer and pen-pusher or homme de lettres. In Olive 49 . or the tiniest of essays. in his novella The Walk. in a great. would be destroyed. to invigorate myself and to maintain contact with the living world. Without walking. ‘I have often wished. comes suspicion of the walker. ‘that my sentences could be written out as a single line running into the distance so that it would be clear that a sentence is likewise a road and reading is traveling (I did the math once and found the text of one of my books would be four miles long were it rolled out as a single line of words instead of being set in rows on pages. compares writing to walking. elaborates when pleading for a reduction in taxes.new contrast between tea and dinner … So when the desire comes upon us to go street rambling the pencil does for a pretext. ‘by base pedestrian methods’. or produce the tiniest poem in verse or prose.’ German writer Robert Walser. I would miserably decay and dry up. And then sometimes she finds that suddenly the fog that has been gathering while sitting still for too long clears. rolled up like thread on a spool). and getting up we say: ‘Really I must buy a pencil. I would not be able to render one single further report. Without walking. in her chapter on labyrinths in Wanderlust. like the time when ‘one day walking round Tavistock Square I made up.’ Along with criticism of idleness when out walking. apparently involuntary rush.’ … The superintendent or inspector of taxes said: ‘But you’re always to be seen out for a walk!’ ‘Walk. without perceiving which I could not write the half of one more single word. To the Lighthouse. in the words of Thomas De Quincey.’ I said frankly and freely to the tax man … ‘that I enjoy.’ A justification seems necessary when simply walking for its own sake is seen to be doing nothing. as I sometimes make up my books.
what in jails used to be known as smart money. with lighted windows in the distance. dogs barking far off.new contrast Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm – ‘a strange coming and going of feet’ – when Bonaparte Blenkins arrives. Soon afterwards he goes out walking again. he is what his senses tell him. when he has left home. both abroad and at home.’ Galgut.’ he noted. More unexpected. is suspicion from those you’re walking away from. he liked feeling that he was inside everything but also outside it at the same time.’ Galgut writes in ‘The Follower’.’ he says. By now 50 . where he was coming from.’ In De Quincey’s day innkeepers developed a shrewd way of evaluating potential guests. proclaiming me to be a man comme il faut. and no toll in this world of tolls do I pay so cheerfully.’ she reasons. and fires no counter gun by way of protest. perhaps. scents of flowers heavy on the air. what does she see there. to “try the range of their guns. and amenable to orders. he is everywhere and nowhere. he is nobody.’ Only that ‘he was a man with a past’. If he’d had money wouldn’t he have bought a horse? Men who walk. He goes through the cool dark.” If the stranger submits quietly. you can tell me…” ‘She takes his arm and looks into his eyes. conjures up the pedestrian stranger appearing on ‘the road unspooling through that landscape of grass in which nothing moves except what you dream up in it … I started with an image of a man on a road. then he is recognised at once as passively within range. he continues to walk. ‘meant (as old experience had instructed me) for the first engineering step towards effecting a lodgement upon the stranger’s purse. Rome’s priests. where he was going. But when he took to walking at night it caused consternation and alarm. ‘he walked aimlessly for hours through the quiet suburban streets. I have always looked upon this fine of five or seven shillings (for wax that you do not absolutely need) as a sort of inaugural honorarium entrance-money. searching for lies or drugs. are nothing but ‘thieves. liars. seducers. in his novel The Quarry. ‘Years later. as a good anti-pedestrian ought surely to do. In fact the wax-lights are used by innkeepers. the Dutch woman says: ‘I’ll have no tramps sleeping on my farm. ‘Four wax-lights carried before me by obedient mutes. his mother started questioning him. ‘When he first started walking he was twelve or thirteen years old. murderers. “where do you go to. these were but ordinary honours. ‘I had no idea who he was.
’ he considers. that most of us take for granted.’ I wonder if perhaps it was having this simple but precious act of independence. to lie down on mountains now. the intensity of purpose as they move. As if they have met somewhere before. ‘I haven’t thought about that in terms of the obsession with walking.’ It is this that he recognises in Reiner. are still suspicious of him. he staggers and reels on thin white legs.’ But this is a mirage. ‘he’s learned to recognize other walkers in the street.’ he continues in ‘The Follower’. where do you go?” As a child Galgut had cancer. some looking for a room. ‘and yet there is something in the way they relate that is not quite intimate. no two walkers are alike. When he finally began to recover. Their faces and clothes and histories don’t match. when he is an adolescent: ‘I still think of him as weak and soft. ‘Maybe there is such a connection. It’s possible. Later. the width of the road between them. I guess. you can tell me. a weird and various tribe of nomads. those who don’t walk themselves. but familiar.’ They conduct a conversation ‘with a curious formality. more than once he is asked that same question. snatched away from him for a time.’ like a blank page. An infant once more. His body has lain on too many beds. long ago. but there is something common to them all. in Africa. some trying to escape the room they have. “where do you go to. that compels him to walk.’ The way Galgut’s novels have taken shape gives us a clue as to how he 51 . It’s something that he needs to do and he goes out a few times a day. but it’s a deeply unconscious one. the mother in his autobiographical novella Small Circle of Beings tells us: ‘I must teach him to use his feet. under too many sheets. It’s a foreign idea to them.’ And later. Reiner wants more detailed maps: ‘Then we can plan every part of the walk. something hard to define but it has to do with the way they carry themselves. driven by different motives and intentions. ‘As he comes to the crest of a hill. When they draw even they stop. whose follower he reluctantly becomes. and was bedridden for a long period of time. Other people.’ while walking in Greece ‘he becomes aware of another figure far away…. Most of the people I know see little point in walking just purely for enjoyment.’ ‘By contrast.new contrast it’s probably himself he’s escaping. and was ‘allowed to leave the bed’.
he is fascinated and moved by relationships between individuals. everything coded into numbers. There are infinite numbers of ways you can go. he doesn’t want external noises to intrude. In a way I’m trying to understand something that’s maybe more apparent to other people than it is to me. ‘because I have to recognise it as part of … it’s clearly present in the work because nearly everybody comments on it in some shape or form. and without knowing exactly which choice you would make if you came to a place where the road forked. but they feel infinite. People have a lot more optimism about their own lives. I don’t think my temperament is so unnaturally weighted that I’m distorting the way I see.new contrast prefers to walk. and his writing is often described as bleak. quite undefensively considering the question. Reiner has no interest in what is happening around him. Reiner has no curiosity about people. Instead he’s researched the climate. is very often out of step with the general view. and the exploration for me lay in joining the dots. Or perhaps they’re not infinite. ‘Even here in South Africa.’ Unlike Galgut. There’s the same sense governing the unfolding of a plot as there is that governs a certain kind of journey. Even when Galgut ‘leaves his flat on the most mundane errand Reiner is always with him. He is worn down by the constant presence. in the sense that you might begin your journey without knowing where you were going to. when he goes on his long walks through the streets’ of Cape Town ‘he has a pair of earplugs that he pushes into his ears. of the way human interactions work. I have to acknowledge that my view of the world.’ 52 .’ he says. but it doesn’t feel like bleakness to me because it just is intrinsically part of how I see things. and about human life in general than maybe I do. ‘I didn’t know the whole arc of the journey from beginning to end. of the way the world works.’ And when he returns from the library ‘it turns out he hasn’t found out about the history of the country at all. where he had never been. ‘I always find myself on slightly uncertain ground when this question of bleakness comes up. but I did know points along the way. It really is just how I see things to be. And the choice you make at a particular fork will determine where your road’s going to take you and to what further choices. But what other people see as bleakness or cynicism.’ And yet he is contradictory. I really do see as a form of realism.’ Though Galgut says he has little faith in the human race as a whole. the terrain and topography.
deceased father. It gave her peace. ‘I could think of little other than this soft. For over a year. Galgut says. just watching the tip of my pencil in the lamplight following its shadow. and a passion too. there are people we would not want to really know. over the ruled paper … But I soon realised that the shadows were falling over me … I found writing such hard going that it often took me a whole day to compose a single sentence. And at times in our conversation I find myself uncomfortably wondering which of my idiosyncrasies he might be observing for use in his fiction later. for want of a better word. actually. But at the same time ‘Her body did not seem old in the blue dark … I did pause a moment to think before I performed this final act of kindness allowed me in my life.’ he says. with the heightened senses that come from a long illness. while that shadow moved regularly from left to right. and him.new contrast At the same time his writing displays compassion and intimacy. to escape the insomnia which increasingly tormented me. ‘how secure have I felt seated at the desk in my house in the dark night.’ says the man. too.’ he says.’ And accelerating towards a mental breakdown. sits in a coffee house and observes the passing crowd.’ referring to one of his favourite authors. There was a kind of love in it. and goes on ‘nocturnal wanderings through London. as if of its own accord and with perfect fidelity. real meaning that happen between people. ‘I suppose there’s a certain melancholy associated with it. But it was more than that.’ In his story ‘Lovers’. line by line. Walking features a lot in the long. Reflecting on the need to walk. ‘I think people manage to connect in quite extraordinary ways. a son goes in search of his remote. But in the end he concludes ‘It was well said of a certain German book that … it does not permit itself to be read. Perhaps it also gave me peace. he begins to echo the remedy used by Dickens more than a century earlier.’ In Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Man of the Crowd’. The title character in Sebald’s Austerlitz recalls.’ 53 . In her confusion. And Reiner was better left to finish his walk on his own. I could frequently read.’ Likewise. and discovers an old love that his father never acted on. the history of long years. a convalescent. ‘That there are moments of. the old woman mistakes him for the father. ‘It seemed that in my peculiar mental state. appalling caress. even in that brief interval of a glance. lonely midnight walks through strange cities in the writing of WG Sebald.
’ ‘And indeed in those houseless night walks. a never-ending succession of them … At Broad Street station. if they were raised while the living slept. like travellers of the past resting on their way through the desert. as these do daily? Are we not sometimes troubled by our own sleeping inconsistencies. But more and more keep coming. as they suppose. like the living.new contrast said Austerlitz. there would not be the space of a pin’s point in all the streets and ways for the 54 . partly because of my interest in architectural history and partly for other reasons which I could not explain even to myself. walking on and on … It is a fact that you can traverse this vast city almost from end to end on foot in a single night … and once you are used to walking alone and meeting only a few nocturnal spectres on your way. ‘I had a fancy in my head which could best be pursued within sight of its walls and dome. Londoners of all ages lie in their beds in those countless buildings in Greenwich. and I took photographs of the remains of the dead. more or less in the condition of those inside it?… Do we not nightly jumble events and personages and times and places. And both Dickens and Austerlitz are preoccupied with ‘Bedlam … the hospital for the insane and other destitute persons’. excavations during the demolition work of 1984 brought to light over four hundred skeletons underneath a taxi rank. and do we not vexedly try to account for them and excuse them. said Austerlitz. When space becomes too cramped the dead. while really they are only stretched out with their faces turned to the earth in fear. built in 1865 on the site of the former burial grounds and bleachfields. apparently because of some agreement concluded long ago.’ wrote Dickens. I went there quite often at the time. ‘I would leave my house as darkness fell. and how.’ On his ‘Night Walks’ Dickens explored the experience of ‘houselessness’. ‘it was a solemn consideration what enormous hosts of dead belong to one old great city. Bayswater or Kensington. just as these do sometimes in respect of their waking delusions?’ Austerlitz is troubled by ‘where the dead were buried once the churchyards of London could hold no more. you soon begin to wonder why. under a safe roof. ‘Are not the sane and the insane equal at night as the sane lie adreaming? Are not all of us outside this hospital who dream.’ wrote Dickens. move out into less densely populated districts where they can rest at a decent distance from each other.
’ he wrote. he decided: ‘Let her go at her own pace. but I had bought freedom into the bargain. there is no word mean enough to describe. One of his best memories is when he and his friend Graham Weir ‘met up in India. perhaps a lone pedestrian would welcome the dead. Modestine’ as he had christened her ‘came instantly to a halt and began to browse. Happily. it kept me hanging on each foot for an incredible length of time. for as Ivan Vladislavić wistfully observes. and follow this way or that. God knows how far. or went on a few yards ahead. nor mince in time with a girl. and four of us went hiking up in the Himalayas.’ Nevertheless. for five-and-thirty. Primarily because the terrain is so impenetrable that they haven’t been able to put roads through anywhere. because freedom is of the essence.’ And yet at that time of night.’ Robert Louis Stevenson warned against walking companions. and would stretch away all round it. Galgut tells me that not all his shared walks have been disastrous. and because you must have your own pace. passing fearfully through the streets. in South African cities. whether in search of someone with open hands of whom he might ask directions or merely of someone to avoid in the pursuit of solitude. when they had to part after 12 days he found himself weeping.’ He had bought her for ‘sixty-five francs and a glass of brandy’ and ‘sold her. for if I dropped a few yards into the rear. but the vast armies of dead would overflow the hills and valleys beyond the city. ‘A walking tour.’ When he found himself in the company of a four-legged ‘lady friend’ in his Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. The pecuniary gain is not obvious. and neither trot alongside a champion walker. and that was fabulous. finds no one at all. saddle and all. as the freak takes you. and let me patiently follow. simply 55 .’ Though ‘What that pace was. ‘should be gone upon alone.new contrast living to come out into. it was something as much slower than a walk as a walk is slower than a run. ‘Nepal is covered by paths that have been made by walking. because you should be able to stop and go on. Not only that. So people still rely on walking. a ‘stranger. It was fantastic. And yet I had to keep close at hand and measure my advance exactly upon hers. in five minutes it exhausted the spirit and set up a fever in all the muscles of the leg.
I don’t believe in staying inside comfortable boundaries.new contrast because they have no other choice. particularly to India. ‘Though I guess for some of the locals. A lot of it is very. Because India’s a full-on assault on your senses. walking from village to village. ‘But obviously in many ways the invasion of your senses is not a welcome one. It’s colours. ‘Although. I mean the smell … sight … The noise levels are very hard to deal with. We did that for about two weeks. you can’t escape it at all. It’s hard to say what attracts him to it. and there’s something very simple and lovely about it. who were carrying the most unbelievable loads up to their villages. Travel is one of his great passions. because it’s only when you see something as strange that you’re willing to change it.’ he adds. When you see something as normal you see no reason to alter it. you have to continually shake up your perception of the world and see it in a different kind of way. So India is a very reliable way of doing that. But even that long term I think is beneficial. it’s tastes. and it’s an assault on every sense that you have. very inspiring. of being there. We had a wonderful time. where he keeps returning. especially for me. I guess. I hate speaking in cliché’s and I’m scared I’ll lapse into cliché if I start talking about it. I think people get used to anything. touching indirectly on what 56 . It just jangles you up in the most painful kind of way. the walk was not nearly as spiritually uplifting an experience as it was for us. Nothing connects you to a landscape more intimately than walking through it. There’s always an inn.’ he says. it’s sounds. in the end everything becomes familiar. It’s a complete invasion. It kind of throws the familiar world on its head and turns it inside out. And wherever you happened to land up that particular day is where you’d settle down. with people willing to take you in. he says. So all the mountain villages and little settlements are connected by footpaths.’ he adds on reflection. very stimulating. it’s textures. ‘because it’s actually a dreadful place in lots of ways. And in many respects that’s a positive experience. especially if you want to be writing about the world. Some of the sights are really overwhelmingly unpleasant. A lot of what you see will never leave you. and you’re just walking on that network of paths. It’s the sensual experience. Absolutely in your face. which is one of our limitations. I like silence. ‘Even pain and poverty become familiar.
if only to fill up the parking space that I’ve also come by recently. ‘But at particular times of the day and in particular areas my awareness would revert. But it’s also what you put out.new contrast outsiders often observe about South Africans’ responses to crime. but I used the oldest and safest avoidance tactic – I ran like hell. And for long distance journeys. two nights ago I had to take him to Somerset Hospital because he was walking home and got stabbed. I still walk to town.’ he reflects. but it’s been about ten years 57 . There is nothing in the world.’ he says. ‘A lot of the time when I’m walking I’m not very present in the real world. But again. ‘it’s through Sea Point. But he was seen as trying to resist. ‘In the early evening. where he lives. particularly at night. ‘I’ve acquired a car. he mentions that he has been lucky in his experiences of crime. He was trying to get his wallet out of his pocket to give to them. I don’t think he was trying to resist. which we cannot. So there’s a certain kind of intent loping that’s going on in the street. twilight time. ‘The guy who lives downstairs. Like walking to yoga. because walking at night is not always a viable option. when it’s getting dark. One of my familiar sights then is seeing the workers who have finished for the day hurrying to catch their taxi or train. and got away!’ In both cases it was in the belt between the Cape Town city centre and Green Point. ‘It’s my mother’s 17-year-old Honda. On both occasions I’ve become aware of people sneaking up behind me. in the end. all my senses would be tuned very differently. And on the surface of it Main Road Sea Point is probably not the most savoury area. I still walk to yoga every day.’ This is the third car he’s owned in his life. As he puts it in Small Circle of Beings: ‘That is our affliction. but it’s been absolutely fine.’ As if unconsciously illustrating the point. come to accept.’ In this instance the car which Galgut ambivalently recently acquired proved to be useful. nothing at all. You can sense when you’re more vulnerable than at other times. actually. as a natural safety measure. if you like. So nothing’s really changed.’ he says. I’m using it for the kind of journeys that I wouldn’t be able to walk. because they were only ‘near muggings. And that’s about it.’ about which he is also passionate. If I had to walk on that Main Road just a few hours later. to the world around me.
or that I’ve left where I was. ‘but there’s actually nothing normal about it. the amount of time that you’re taking. ‘I don’t enjoy the experience of driving. says: ‘Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much. yes. I constantly have a shift in my head where I see myself from a distance. or the space.’ he says. so for me that’s a real journey. and step out. It’s a very strange activity. in the sense that you get in. You can also avoid seeing what you find unpleasant. and I see what I’m doing. are unnatural. ‘I find it extremely unnatural. There’s a direct correspondence between the energy. You’re sitting on a seat with a little circle in front of you. he was of the opinion that walking would remain the fastest and most efficient way to get anywhere. On a train you also go through every stage of the journey. I love to travel.new contrast since he’s owned a car. and it seems quite bizarre.’ When Thoreau witnessed the train being built between Boston and Pittsburgh. and according to how you turn the circle you’re adjusting your direction. and the surface of the earth that you’re covering. ‘One of the satisfying things about walking as a mode of travel is that your input and effort are directly proportionate to the distance that you cover. He couldn’t imagine the speed at which the future world would move. It strikes me as a satisfying way to travel because you’re physically present in the space that you’re crossing. and clarifications of travel can sometimes be garnered by going around the block as well as going 58 . As the child in Flannery O’Connor’s story. into an enclosed space. liberations. or the time. with your feet on little pedals. and according to how you’re depressing the peddles you’re going faster or slower. from the motor car through to the aeroplane. not far from the famous pond in Walden. and in a disproportionately short period of time you can go right around the world. All the modern forms of transport. It would be cheaper and healthier. ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’. ‘I long in a nostalgic way – as though I’ve ever done it. and I haven’t – for the days of ship travel. It doesn’t cut you off from the distance. but I take days to recover and accept that I’ve arrived somewhere. and ‘the surprises. Rebecca Solnit believes that thought moves best at three miles an hour.’ ‘The shock of that has been culturally absorbed into the normality of our present lives.’ Galgut continues. but it would also be quicker than going by train.
Woolf. London: Hogarth Press. Sebald. she concludes. in Tales of Mystery and Imagination. –––. 2006. WG. 1982. –––. 174. Walser. Small Circle of Beings. Johannesburg: Umuzi. Schreiner. ‘Night Walks’. –––. 21–27 May 1993. Penguin Books. fold us round. ‘The Man of the Crowd’. Without it ‘your other talents are worthless. 1879. Solnit. Robert Louis. ‘Lovers’. in Selected Stories. the old prejudices. 1995. London: Hogarth Press. No. ‘The Talent of the Room’. Ventura. 1955. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. it is good to return to one’s room. Coleridge and Opium-Eating and Other Writings. Thomas. in Virginibus Puerisque. Austerlitz. ‘Street Haunting’. Michael Ventura reminds us that it’s the only talent you really need as a writer – ‘the talent of the room’. 59 . Writing is something you do alone in a room….’ References De Quincey. Ivan. a lead pencil. ‘Walking Tours’. Michael. Edgar Allan. The Story of an African Farm. London: Chapman and Hall. A Sinless Season. Galgut. let us touch it with reverence – is the only spoil we have retrieved from all the treasures of the city. Johannesburg: Lowry Publications. 1840. ‘The Walk’. in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. 1876. 2001. 1917. which has been blown about at so many street corners. Summer 2005. 1883. London: T Nelson. The Quarry. in LA Weekly. in The Uncommercial Traveller. which has battered like a moth at the flame of so many inaccessible lanterns. Olive. 2003. A Good Man is Hard to Find. London: Minerva Press. 2001. How long can you stay in that room?’ When Virginia Woolf returns home from her ‘Street Haunting’ adventure. London: Bloomsbury. –––. Johannesburg: Ball. Wanderlust. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black. and the self. London: Faber and Faber. 1901. –––. Poe. London: T Nelson. O’Connor. have been untangled. Virginia. Flannery. 1988. New York Review of Books. Portrait with Keys. Motion Studies. Charles. in The Paris Review. Stevenson. ‘The Follower’. Johannesburg: Ad Donker. sheltered and enclosed… And here – let us examine it tenderly. 1862. ‘It is comforting to feel the old possessions. Penguin USA. and one is pleasantly tired. London: Viking. 1930. Dickens. –––. or the intimidation of being confronted by a blank page. Damon. 1927. Robert. Rebecca. And when the threads of restlessness and anxiety. –––.new contrast around the world’. in Small Circle of Beings. Vladislavić. To the Lighthouse.
new contrast Silke Heiss The Griffin Elegy – Part 4 Melissa’s Gift 60 .
Examine the thing. Appalled. Véronique’s never put flowers anywhere. when I phone the studio. It. if – but it seems. I simmer and seethe. but not a surprise. ‘I’ll close for today. and then I’ve an idea. As I’m stacking them. I’ve not had to face this kind of stuff till now. I know she’ll try to hide the truth from me. In an abrupt state of vengeance. Roughly an hour I sit. my eye is drawn to a panty of Véronique’s. I fear the worst. I imagine the bloody runt she might have invited here to take off her clothes. It’s evident it was removed here. God knows the horrific guilt I’d carry. take out the rubbish.new contrast 1 Finding my house in a mess is a bit disappointing. that Ron’s okay.’ says Naisha. I do the dishes piled in the sink. in the lounge. sort the magazines and newspapers lying around. based on mere intuition. Torn. Affected by sudden panic. Then I wait in my study. There. and the panty (a ball in my hand) add up. 61 . I frown. – ‘I think. the assistant. not in the garden. Four years of marriage ensure that one knows what one’s let oneself in for. Unwashed. and newly selected Mrs Ngcuka as temporary Deputy President. but fortunately her powers of deception won’t withstand the proof. nothing more.’ 2 I’m still holding the receiver. when a rose in water beside the television looms into my line of vision. nor inside. I wander through the rooms. I wait and wait. I smell it. Their front pages show Shabir Shaik led away. She deserves a blow. Ron’s in Industria for promotional shots. I cap the rose with the underwear.
‘And I love him. for the first time in my life. ‘Mal Vento’.’ Her voice is soft and unfamiliar. ’cause it’s cold.’ I rise abruptly. because of an affair! 4 She stands between the fire and me. perhaps. the flames pant. The first words I’ll say to her. I’ll fight back! Then I make a fire. 62 . I obey the devil. I’m going with the flow. None of this was planned: not the dumbness. are: ‘The house is sold.’ She unlocks the door just after six. She holds the rose and her panty on her outstretched hands. I hold my mute attack. I hold. I don’t look round when I hear her stockinged shuffle. Not this bitter smoke between us. without shame. adding. Christ. But the pine cones in the fire crack. Silence reigns. With a crack she kicks off her boots in the entranceway. She pleads with burning eyes. who would have thought that one day. Fiercely take her by the collar. we’d embark on a Cold War. and though she’s too tall for me to be able to hoist her up. where a pale pile of ash has grown. I’m somewhat surprised that clearly I’m capable of stooping so low: I know it’s wrong. ‘I want to sell the house. and her shadow’s thrown on me: I feel the darkness like a cloak. I’m going to let things take their course now. Then she tries to unclasp my grip. I say nothing when she enters the room. I don’t let go.’ she sighs. And yet. I know I’m doing harm. I prestik it over the sign with the name of our house. slumping. ‘There was no avoiding it.new contrast 3 I write the word ‘Mal’ in large letters on a square of cardboard. and so does she: submitting to the threat of violence like a puppy. No longer pacifist. it reads now.
6 The lawyer’s on Véronique’s side. I lie down. and nobody is equal.new contrast 5 Once more at my parents’ place. My room’s a cave. I’m dumb and numb. from which I don’t or won’t emerge. She rubs my shoulder timidly. as if to pull and scold my heart. buried under text? I feel that submitting to my mother’s drive to gather Theo’s soul by means of a dirge set down on paper – that this obedience to a womb’s wound. uncaring. of course. except to see a divorce lawyer with my wife. carless. and let my eyes dwell on her unmusical hips in pricey slacks. Farewell. Mom offers me tea. My independence’s ruined by a maternal ploy. At least. jobless. I’ll grant. There’s no defence for me against such a tide of righteousness. undeserving. She lets it slide. In this state. is it worth re-kindling any resolve I’ve had since my accident to exhume my brother’s history. I can’t concentrate on anything. as she climbs the steps to the road. Véronique’s won this one. And my retrenchment payout’s dwindling. as it were. Where do I sign? I hold the door for the chirpy lawyer. it can’t get worse. A woman can’t do wrong these days. unloving. cold. I shrug her off. No sequel to this round. I watch as she packs papers and files into her Smartcar. An unnerving vacuum clasps my chest. I’m a helpless boy: homeless. 63 . Who cares what happens next? It may take time before we sell – the property boom is slowing. as well she should. I’m the villain in the piece: distant. is actually totally rotten. My ‘Quest’s’ forgotten. ungiving.
orange crocs. In garden shorts and dirty. He’s always had his craft to run away from us.’ 8 Amazing how unselfconscious moms can be with advice so dreary and so obvious. despite myself.new contrast 7 On the stoep with a brandy and coke. ‘Thanks for that. the sooner. I hear my dad at work. May I have a word with you?’ Mom seats herself beside me. ‘I don’t need you to go down the tubes. what catches my eyes is the skin on her legs: hideously dry. from Amanda.’ says Mom. whether we like it or not. But far be it from her to heed the need for silence. the better. They think we children must be swaddled in their ancient bands over and over. What’s this floppiness about? What’s going on? Gather yourself. ‘I must be honest. ‘My opinion. scaly. ‘Eric. I see her hands are fists beside her hips.’ she persists. ‘Phew!’ I gasp. I must be getting used to my own cold nastiness.’ I reply. Mom. from social life in general. ‘is that you should do your best to try to find a position again. sipping mineral water from a bottle. ‘You can stay here as long as you like.’ she goes on. ‘but I’m fed up. I hiss at her: ‘There’s a link between us. I wouldn’t have been so bold in the past to let such thoughts surface. Eric. My thoughts are: leave Theo’s book for a few weeks or months. too!’ Bravely she holds my gaze. Not this ginger hair! We’re both not nice!’ 64 . I shudder. No more needs be said. ‘I’m not going to plead with you. reptilian. Take a stand!’ I get up. stung.’ she says regretfully. But you’ve obligations you can’t shirk.
new contrast 65 .
I do my best. stay with a pal from varsity days. I won’t continue. Willem gives me the name of her suburb and street. it spurs me to act. and many security companies. ‘For Sale’ signs. leafless in this season. these cast a spell. unhurried gestures. nor me.’ she explains.new contrast 9 The glimpse Amanda’s given me of a hard-boiled side. though. 10 Melissa! I need a muse to help me find the words for the unexpected composure I encounter in her. We drink tea. ‘I’ll tell you. Up and down I drive in Robindale’s wide. She says. Maid Marion Road.’ she declares without smiling. For me. oh no. if it disturbs 66 . then I swallow my fears and press the button. Too far embroiled. I fly to Jozi. you see. and make a time to see Melissa. A metal gate. which she’s kept hidden all these years. No number. attest to the crime wave that’s putting the country to shame. ‘I left work early.’ the goddess says. I catch my breath. ‘about him. equanimity. She bids me sit on a garden chair beneath a pin oak. ‘I haven’t spoken since Theo’s death to anyone. and a ceramic number nine on a pillar topped. I might add. by a griffin with rosy wings. ‘Your visit’s important. He did everything he could to stop that rogue of a doctor from doing what he did. but quiet. or maybe I simply never noticed it? – At any rate. He didn’t deter him.’ Her steady poise. My finger wavers many lengthy seconds. in a voice that makes my heart rumble. Can’t pull back. jolts me out of my thoughts. The sun shines through the complicated branch-work of the tree. he was and remains a saviour.
’ This elicits a brown-toothed smile.’ I reply politely.’ she replies. ‘but I’d like to hear everything which you’d be willing to share. ‘I’d be glad if you stayed the night. too. ‘Ah.’ she continues. brown in them. I start to wonder: has she spiked the tea? ‘It’s not your everyday anecdote. I’m suffering from uninvited thoughts of Ron. aren’t you? There’s no need. ‘Are you married?’ I blurt irrationally. Can you?’ She doesn’t wait for a reply. Eric.’ she declares and reveals her earthy teeth. You give your soul. olive. ‘You’re free.’ she says.’ 67 . then. ‘have a magic energy. ‘I thought cats were alone in enjoying that privilege. ‘I’ve been lucky.new contrast 11 you.’ As she utters her mystical phrases.’ I reply. ‘My husband’s a very special man. proving she’s of this earth. indeed.’ ‘That’s what everybody thinks. ‘You. suggesting we talk in the present nook secluded at the edge of the garden. she doesn’t so much as frown – ‘I couldn’t on my own afford a house this size.’ Melissa curtly retorts. gesturing towards the generous verandah leading from the house. such mixtures of green. It’s tragic Theo’s not with us now. You’re reviving something with your visit. and looks at me with multi-coloured eyes. But even at this. adding. But in his death is birth. but goes to fetch two glasses and a bottle of wine. extracts the cork with practised hands and pours while saying. which she led me through a moment ago. I’ve had my nine lives. I try to ignore them. I don’t like to feel rushed. She looks at me. to make a fuss.’ 12 she chuckles. yellow.
‘No need for fuss. ‘Damn!’ I say. I seize the wine in the dark. together with the murmur of her clear. But nothing spills.’ Our glasses clink. No lights are on. I’m determined to unwind – but I knock the bottle over. What’s new? Soon I hated every bit of myself that was woman. I gulp the Woolworths ‘What?!’ Chardonnay. Images of Karosella cross my mind: David with the gun. although he fought for me. I was too stupid for that. invades my bones. whom I didn’t see much of. deep voice. It didn’t take much to frighten me.new contrast 13 ‘No. She speaks about you. brother. and the wintry Jo’burg cold surrounds us. and Melissa says. I knew him from an early age and loved him more than my father. Surely he must have flattered me despite myself. brings you close: ‘So that was why even Theo wasn’t sufficiently strong. since his work required him to travel a great deal. ‘I had an uncle. Melissa gets up.’ 14 Melissa speaks. I wasn’t such a self-conscious girl. Manja’s conversation with Gila. into a kind of numbness. to stop my fervour. I didn’t even think. the moment’s almost solemn as the night closes in abruptly. We move to the verandah. I couldn’t slight him.’ I comply. I needed to kill those mammary – those memory-mounds!’ 68 . the mango trees. My uncle wanted to touch – he admired me like a ripening fruit. When does the husband she mentioned come home? Who knows? Trembling as if I were suffering from Parkinson’s. But I sunk – well. he’s no longer alive. lights a lantern and incense. Though it was only his hands that invaded my ignorant body.
15 My teeth are actually chattering by now, and I can’t hide it. Melissa leads me to a room adjoining the lounge. ‘My womb,’ she calls it, ‘you’re privileged, not even Gerald’s allowed in here.’ Gerald, the husband, arrives just as I’m settling down in a bamboo chair, with a sewing machine, fabric paint, and cloths on a table beside me. I’ve just taken it in, now rise to greet a thick-set man, whose expression is jovial, yet threatening. ‘What a lesson,’ Gerald sniffs, ‘’gainst Uruguay. I bet you we’ll win next week!’ I gape, uncomprehending. A faint grin plays round his mouth. ‘We’ll make it. We’ll get through,’ he mutters soothingly, as if to herald greater struggles than before. Melissa, wedged between us in the doorway, laughs. ‘Soon we’ll be Rugby Champs! The whole world’s watching. And you shan’t?’ 16 Theo, Theo. Since I’ve owned our brotherhood, everything’s chaotic, unforeseen. What would you say if you knew your one-time girlfriend’s built a monument to you for all to see? In her little workroom, she gives away your secrets: ‘Your brother didn’t believe in love. Nor I, you know. We practised a courteous lust. It was I who deserted, who was impatient with Theo’s patience, his vision of water, rather than blood – I guess my decision was like a betrayal.’ A pause. ‘Hated his mom, asserted that she’d abused him by means of love. ‘We must fight love: it’s an illness,’ he’d say, heedless that his care for me was essentially charity.’ Melissa cries. ‘I felt such guilt when he drowned,’ she says. ‘I knew I should have been there for him. If I could have my life over,’ she says, ‘I would.’
17 When I finally recline on the spare bed, my head’s whirling. All this psychologising! In a matter of hours, Melissa’s lost her charm for me. What’s she doing with that rugby fan Gerald? How can such an unusual woman choose someone so obviously unfit for her? I feel a pang. My perfect marriage: an illusion. I sit up in the dark, feel for my pack, take out my notes and papers, then sit back on the bed in the freezing cold. I’m losing my confusion along with my old distaste for you, Theo. Prefer to see you these days as a mysterious creature, whose humanity was only part of the man you were. And are. A man. A word. A thought. To be so fearless as to say: the matter comprising me is greater than I. From there, where’re we led, 18 but to dark matter looming in the head? Too much Chardonnay, but also not: the ashen feel of these papers, the soft, grey cold pulling on the skin of these white fingers joined, by chance, by name, to Theo Griffin: eagle, lion … An ancient nebula. You beat your head against our lies without blinking. You’re etched into my stuffy human life, its rotten fluke. A starburst, you, rife with ungovernable elements, sinking me and the family. We’ve lost the fabular beast: you. The papers seem to whisper. I shift them, sigh, rememb’ring your elemental fight against us: an electron spinning out, bold with charge, convinced and negative, hot with elemental force. Neither living nor dead.
19 On my return to Cape Town, I find a room in Kalk Bay: the fisherman’s village – alone in having been the only South African town, which was spared forced removals, yet the place from which you were removed from life, spared burial. So memories thrash on without respite here, peaking the melancholy and despair to which this city is and has been home. Melissa’s gift to me, however, is that, through her, I’ve a vision I never would have imagined were possible to have, these days, and that is: there’s little human quality in human acts and failures. The human’s been in fashion, but is outmoded now. I see my ex-wife: a helpless, helpless element, she searches and googles for news from her lover. What does it mean? For what? We orbit like atoms or chemicals without say. 20 In retrospect, the visit to Joburg’s like a mouth, a river mouth that’s led me to a sea of freedom in my cove: at the back of a corner house. My presence is illegal, sub-letting’s against my fortune-teller ‘landlady’s’ contract. But I am decent, quiet, camouflaged. Those are her words, she trusts the lay of the cards. And I am grateful: she has no need to prove my credit. In this situation, I return to edit the Quest, the kernel of which has crystallised. ‘Why do you presume to be advanced? It’s a mirage,’ you wrote, ‘True communication is, in fact, both swift and noiseless.’ At two a.m. the setting’s really primal as I read. The fishermen rouse themselves, I feel their movement down the street. I see their lanterned boats float in the blackness, south.
mate. It’s somehow stuck. I wanted like to run that story by you. ‘there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you guys about your man. Boss. ‘the boffin boet of that poor soul.’ I say to Goodson. unless it’s “Bastard”. too. ‘Sit down and listen. ‘It sort of shows consideration. proving he knows more than me? I bristle when he says. ‘Blast me if that’s not Eric. I’m stunted. what I’ve just heard? 72 .new contrast 21 I go out. surprised to see me. Your brother and I were about to enter Jumbo’s – the pub right here. too. Stay in the shadows. humming to himself.’ He laughs uncertainly.’ he says. ‘Anyway.’ says your boet. I become aware of Keith Goodson. and then we went in. cross the railway line between the street and sea. He’s sitting on a bench belonging to the Fish ’n Chips joint. I think. smoking.’ 22 ‘Please don’t call me any of those b-words. I s’pose. whom everybody knows.’ he said to me five years ago.’ He flicks his ash. the hippie of the bay. He points at me. you might say. May I tell you a little anecdote?’ Is this a shoddy story. He clicks his tongue commiseratingly on hearing my fate. He farts and sighs. it’s the Haven Nightshelter now. But one memory. even. Rude. Ai. ‘Wait. surfer and musician. ‘Your brother was a Mensch. I shrug. Apologies if it offends you. Is it significant.’ he says now. We Griffins hold him in esteem: he was the last person to see Theo. Got two kids. They like that tale. We’re about to go in. It’s unimportant.
‘sometimes I wonder what’s the difference between the sea and me. too. Amanda. I’ve a dream that flits in vivid fish-images across my brain. They pass and fade. an awful. like elementally. Then I realise they’re a procession of mourners. and I’m not among them.’ Cackling. I’m not a boff like you.new contrast 23 Goodson and I leave the harbour together. And then there’s David – Gila and Willem’s worker I confronted. Mist’s coming up. 73 . we crash and smash. aligned as on a wing. full of the living and the dead. Morning’s advanced with cars droning by. changing Goodson’s strange panache into a pain in my chest at his lonely oddity. Back in bed. as he trudges homeward. cool and moist. like. my breathing laboured. I mean. monstrous fish and bird and human cross. Would I like to chase slow writers for a senior-phase series? He’s offering. David’s face in the dream was a transgression. Raymond. A former workmate’s on the telephone. Who can explain the incongruity? ‘You know. elicit a bewildered grin in me. I cross the road. 24 Each fish becomes a feather. calls. Goodson salutes. whom I’d imagined I’d effectively shunted out of my head! I wake with a start. but I know. each looks intently back at my observing self: Melissa. And now my ‘landlady’. And we polluted. and then each feather articulates a face I recognise: one by one they separate. Hedy.’ says Goodson. I see a Dikbek and a Gurnard – I’m the Gurnard – bid each other good day. bru. What do I say? His muffled chuckles.
She raises her tail like an aerial. However. prepared by Hedy. stranger matters on my mind.’ he replies. endure the pulling at my shoulder. She leaps away. 74 . 26 ‘I could lay the cards for you for half the fee. at this moment. which I’d like to complete before rejoining the workforce. Some food. phone Manja. my feline friend. unless I steel my nerves and breathe. I catch my breath: for a second my hand is a fin or wing on Honey’s back. ‘Today’s Thursday. ‘let me know by Monday? You’ve a good track-record as a motivator. Serves them right for dumping me. ‘but thank you. though mildly abject. allow for this invasion of unease. and a description of the lion-bird that marks her house. I complete the ‘Lover’ section. And I remember Mau. I’ve other. helps. because it’s you.new contrast 25 I tell him I need to think. I take a deep breath. I resolve to tell her what happened at Karosella. Melissa’s praises included. tries to heal it. as if struck.’ I say. ‘I’ve a personal project. Was the chance encounter with Goodson a sign? David’s appearance in my dream could foment my anxiety further. goes mellow when I scratch her head.’ I say. who also used to help me see. I may well take you up on that. She’s free on Saturday. ‘Not now. Hedy’s cat. a ray of sun points splendidly.’ says Hedy. Then I feel a furred body at my calf. Cape Town’s alternative women are poignant in their rugged solitude. The door’s open. She rubs my shoulder.’ After breakfast.’ I can’t help but feel quite smug. We need one now.
’ she says eventually.’ she cries. Who’d be seen to attend to that? It’s too hard to assess. ‘Now I know why David’s ill – you’re behind it! You and Theo! What. ‘do I do now? Such a lot to sort out. ‘I can’t believe the mess. my brain computes connections like mad.’ 75 . ‘I’m not as strong as you.’ Manja starts berating me for being deaf. I say.new contrast 27 It’s Saturday.’ ‘I’ll tell you something. my Quest’ll be done. ‘You know. Trying to tackle my stuff ’s enough. ‘what’s stood in all our way? The Past. Tutu tried. But his “teachings” spoiled or arrested their spiritual growth. ‘you’ve helped me no less. at odds with. And now I’m watching the rugby with Dad. between David and Melissa’s uncle. lean against the rocks. I understand what David was doing in my dream. ‘You made everything worse!’ I let this pass. on my request. Manja’s with me at the cairn at the Point. I’m sorry I can’t be more sympathetic.’ she wails. Manja gasps. ‘initiating’ at least five girls on that farm. Eric. I’m nobody’s saviour.’ says Manja. ‘I’m giving up trying to show the wrong that man did. I’m reaching an end. There’s no physical harm. They won’t speak. How can we clean the grime of memories. and I confess. By next week. We sit down on the grass.’ I say. things’re falling into place. I want to get rid of the violence of life. it’s too big for me. which is tense and full of foreboding. But what’s the point?’ 28 While Manja raves. your blunder!’ She grunts. Bontebok amid white and yellow flowers present a lovely scene. it’ll kill me. or perhaps balancing our mood.
return with a glass. I’m weakened by accumulated woes. By the time the Boks hug one another. A beautiful feeling rocks me like water. slide and melt out of sight on the other side. they drink their Castles by the hour. I grope my way. Is it jealousy she’s feeling? Does she believe my watching this game is a way to remember Melissa? ‘I want to spend time with Dad. Carelessly I drift into my childhood room. luxuriously dead. plagued by thirst. stay in the shallows. I see their firm bodies ripple over a rock. I force myself: down to Fisherman’s Beach I go. a little way away. At first light. reviving current flows right through my skin like medicine sent by the gods. A mate of his is here as well. And then. Wasn’t Melissa the love of your life? I’m glad. At 44.new contrast 29 Manja’s reserved and rather uptight when she drops me at my folks’. But compelled to drink some water or die. I might as well join in. My body flops. Must lay me down. Mustn’t drown. 76 . the punishment is greater. 30 I wake in the dark. five furry heads round some boulders. and then. A power greater than myself is in this. I stay. weighed down like velvet clad in jewels. Unwilling to cure the body’s pressing needs. forget my troubles. Dad’s in the best of spirits. But her face is blank and unresponsive. The drought strikes at once again. Pensive now. If I could be so sure. The otters clamber up. I settle down. The cold.’ I assure her. The price we pay for our sins. I’ve had nine cans. Drain it.
I tell her I feel high. exploring themes such as exile. and her work has appeared in a variety of publications. Her fingers fiddle. including Gobshite Quarterly. and yet the logic of my text and Theo’s. And one’s the needle. Charl-Pierre Naudé is a poet in both Afrikaans and English. relationships and memory. Dodging cars. His Die Nomadiese Oomblik (Tafelberg) was published in 1995. thinking of Mom. I’m proud. Eclectica. we cross Boyes Drive. England. His poems have been published in both South African and English magazines. She is the winner of the 2006 Mondi Shanduka Award for Creative Journalism. and have an uncontrollable desire to share this initial triumph. thinking. Manja arranges a baby-sitter.new contrast 31 Over the next two days I stitch a first draft together. Barbara Fairhead is an artist and a poet.’ I say. I feel reborn. Andie Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Johannesburg. In die geheim van die dag followed in 2004/5: Against the light 77 . interspersed with drawings. Despite our bitter recent parting. She writes lyrics for the Red Earth Rising band and lives close to wind and water. but I wonder what thread sews us together? People Alan Galante lived most of his life in the shadow of Table Mountain before moving to Norfolk. one’s the cloth. I’ve not been in control. then cloud over and look down. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand. she’s gnawing at her lip. And then we are remembering each other. ‘Come. and meets me at Olympia Café. and notice her eyes grow moist with affection. death. does it read well? I’m in a different life from the one I’ve lived so far. Itch and River Teeth. has an unfamiliar spin.
In 2007 her essay entitled ‘Was Ayn Rand Wrong?’ was selected for inclusion in The Face Of The Spirit. He has at various times been a hobo. the latest included in Twist. a gardener. cartoonist. is a physician in Somerset West. was educated at the University of Wales and the University of 78 . She grew up in Austria and the United States. he became stateless in 1966. He returned to university at the age of 39 as a student of biology. though published in Afrikaans. a taxi driver. a tobacco picker. Damian Garside has been published in New Contrast since 1977. CJ (‘Jonty’) Driver was born in Cape Town in 1939. www.com Graham Ellis. and was refused a South African visa until after 1991. a disc jockey and has worked at other odd jobs. He lives in Muizenberg. He is also a journalist. Since the early 1980s he has had a considerable number of poems published in literary magazines here in South Africa and the United States. Cape Town. Gabeba Baderoon is the author of The Dream in the Next Body (2005) and A hundred silences (2006). a century of essays by South African women. HA Hodge is a poet. titled Cat Came Back and other stories. a winery worker. Karina Magdalena Szczurek was born in Poland in 1977. Gus Ferguson is a poet. He is the singer and keyboard player for the band Red Earth Rising which has just recorded its first album for release later this year. Jane Bruwer is a teacher of languages currently retired and living in Pretoria with her husband and two children. She is an aspirant poet.new contrast is the English version which was written concurrently. she completed a Creative Writing Masters degree at the UCT and is now a full-time writer. a carpenter. Consuelo Roland has published a novel called The Good Cemetery Guide. Jacques Coetzee is a poet. and journalist. He was one of the judges of the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2007. an anthology based on tabloid headlines. Hugh has a BA (Hons) in Russian Literature. earning a PhD in entomology. were originally written in English to an English-speaking woman. He is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the Mafikeng Campus of North-West University. Doug Downie was born in the US. His love poems. musician and freelance translator. He moved to South Africa in 2003 and has lectured at Rhodes University ever since. and survival. President of NUSAS in 1963 and 1964. and several short stories. Charl-Pierre has appropriated the ‘other’ language in his work as a poet. hope. short-listed for the 2007 University of Johannesburg Prize. He now writes primarily poetry. and a biography. which was short-listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Award 2006. He self-published a collection of tragic-comic tales of futility. editor and computer programmer. when not counting the stars in Namibia. He hosts the Monday Off-the-Wall poetry gig in Observatory.gabeba. He has published five novels. publisher and pharmacist. After leaving her career in the IT industry. six books of poetry.
He is a published poet. Martin Jacklin was born in Durban in 1965. Kobus Moolman teaches creative writing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. and Japanese. where he reads. Sesame. She is married to writer André Brink and lives in Cape Town with her husband and two cats. in the anthology Forbidden Strangers published by Sinclair Beiles. University of London. Staffrider. went to Parktown Boys’ High School. Natal. she became a reviewer for The Sunday Independent and has just completed her doctoral thesis on Nadine Gordimer’s post-apartheid writing. the others in magazines here and abroad. Robert Balfour is Associate Professor and Head of the School of Language. translated into German in the anthology Hinter den Regenbogen. He was shortlisted for the 1991 Nadine Gordimer short story award. Literacies. A dozen of his astronomy and spaceflight poems can be viewed at www. Full Circle. won the 2004 PANSA award.com. He holds degrees from the universities of Rhodes. in Amsterdam in the journal Oral. where she completed her MA in English and Slavonic Studies in 2002. Silke Heiss has an MA in Creative Writing from UCT for a novel. 79 . Media. After her move to South Africa in 2005. Author of numerous critical articles and five collections of poetry. Keith Gottschalk’s political poems came out as a collection in 1992. and was published by Dye Hard Press last year. His play. and has appeared in the UK journal Iota and the annual PoetryNow ‘Home Counties Anthology’. and Cambridge. and Separating the Seas. and Drama Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Kelwyn Sole is a Professor in the English Dept at UCT. and was educated at the University of the Witwatersrand and at the School of Oriental and African Studies. with a few poems translated into Xhosa. he has published over 150 poems. writes. Blind Voices (Botsotso Publishers). edits books. which won second prize in the Ernst van Heerden Creative Writing Competition 2003. Michael Bardouleau makes sure that computer programs work properly for a living and writes to make sure he lives properly. Feet of the Sky.new contrast Salzburg. Robert Berold lives on a farm near Grahamstown. He has lived and worked in Johannesburg. Kelwyn was born in Johannesburg. and studied Drama.astronautix. Four of his plays have been staged in South Africa and one made into a short film. He has published three collections of poetry: Time like Stone (which received the Ingrid Jonker Prize for 2001). German. and grows older. He has also published a collection of radio plays. writer. French. He lives in Cape Town. His poetry has been published in New Coin. and a painter. The Griffin Elegy continues the story and characters begun there. African and English Literature at the UCT. Kanye (Botswana) and Windhoek (Namibia). Emergency Poems. Including those.
00 $50. Lesotho. 141–144) South Africa.00 $50. • Please include your name and address on each page. • E-mail submissions may be included as the body of an e-mail or as attached Word documents. Inform us if your work is accepted elsewhere before you hear from us. Botswana and Namibia Europe and African countries not listed above Asia and Australia North and South America Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to the South African Literary Journal (address above) Electronic transfers to Standard Bank. Branch code: 02-00-09 Account name: South African Literary Journal Ltd Account type: Current account Standard Bank Account number: 070508666 R210. PO Box 44844. • If your work is accepted for publication you will received two free copies of the issue in which your work appears. 7735. please say so in your covering letter.com Subscription rates for 2008 (New Contrast Nos. • Please note that because our editors are overworked volunteers it can take up to three months to receive a reply. Zimbabwe. . South Africa E-mail Editor: newcontrasted@gmail. Claremont. • E-mail submissions to newcontrasted@gmail. • Please do not send original manuscripts as they cannot be returned by us. Adderley Street.00 £25.00 Guidelines for contributors Postal submissions will be accepted although e-mail submissions are preferable. Swaziland. • If you are submitting the same material to another publication at the same time.com • All postal submissions must be typed.Editorial and subscription address New Contrast. • Poetry submissions should not exceed six poems. Cape Town.com Email Business Manager: newcontrastadm@gmail.
za As the wall awaits the mural the mural awaits graffiti and graffiti await the sponge Half in the shade with a few petals chewed – my kind of daisy .co. Light and colours enfold a silence: our life caught a brief moment in suspended wonder between river and stars. Available better bookstores (ie those that stock poetry) or contact snaily@pulsar.Unpublished Manuscript Press Jane Fox Ghostwriter and other poems I want to capture the listening harmony that breathes in this room.
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