I taught myself to live without him,
an orphan sorting through rubbish for scraps.
Crippled, I fashioned crutches from
my own insights, hobbling forlorn through
shameful streets, begging for change.
I was a gecko wriggling away from a cat’s sharp claws.
Stump-tailed, I waited, knowing it would grow back.
I mouthed words in the dreadful silence:
‘I need help’, ‘I love’, my voice a late-night phone
ringing unanswered in a home a world away.
After the wedding vows –
sweet as lilies in our mouths,
the speeches having been made
from behind the long table,
and a ring made of lapis and gold
tight around my finger –
we drove two provinces,
switching coastal green for Namibia’s sand.
We pitched a tent under wintry quiver trees,
its sides fluttering flimsy in the desert air.
That first night, I couldn’t sleep,
lay there listening to my husband’s breath,
raspy as the branches moving against each other outside.
A million stars above us spilled their light
across black ink, our fire’s coals hissing as they cooled.
So old this place, and us so new
joining each other in an arduous journey,
the end of which we could not know.
‘For as long as our love shall last,’
my bridegroom promised.
I must have slept, waking as the dawn
turned the dunes the colour of skin;
a little wind buffeting our shelter,
and us wrapped together, dry dusty blankets,
a Welwitschia plant, two leaves only its whole life –
morning dew quenching its hot endless thirst.
The wilderness inside her
She lay at the lagoon all night with the heroin addict,
sky tangling dark as his hair around them.
Her father and her sister found her at dawn.
A friend asked her if she was on the pill yet;
hours spent under blankets with students at house parties,
her numbness inchoate as breasts bared to strangers.
Driving with him, streetlights strafing her mini-skirted legs,
she felt less a daughter
than a girl without a name, an amputee,
her hands missing, or perhaps her tongue.
Through the rubber reek of condom,
her first lover smelt of cherry tobacco.
His black sheets crumpled into a vortex.
Every time she fell in love, she wept,
raging at a world gone wrong.
She stood in the desert under the quiver tree,
the wintry stars’ eyes refusing to see.
Sarah Frost is 49 years old and mother to an 18-year-old boy, and a nine-year-old girl. She lives in Durban, South Africa. She has completed an MA in English Literature at UKZN and achieved a first class pass in a module in Online Poetry at Wits University. She won the Temenos prize for mystical poetry in the McGregor Poetry Competition in 2021. Her debut collection, Conduit, was published by Modjaji in 2011.
Bretten-Anne Moolman lives in Gqeberha, South Africa. You can read more about her work here: http://www.bamoolman.co.za/index.php.