Art and Literature for Africa and the World

Two Poems

Two Poems

We Danced with Strangers

Laughter and the touch of strangers
are what I remember most that night,
moments before the old year gave way
to the new. We danced in circles intoxicated
not with alcohol, but with something that had
nothing to do with the past.

My brown arms grew sweaty as they rubbed
against someone else’s, someone I had just met
by chance. Our eyes reflected the flash
of colours in that dim tavern.

Rage Against the Machine
took turns with Lionel Richie
and Earth Wind and Fire.

It was the year Mandela never saw coming
while he was in prison, though he must have dreamed it
countless times when the lights went out,
or as he struck a rhythm from a boulder
with a state-issued hammer.

 

Dancing with a Phantom Limb

You laughed when you saw your hand try to scratch
the back of a knee that was no longer there.
My smile was a late and uncomfortable response.

The rest of your body swerved as if to deliver a kick
to a soccer ball that strayed toward us. We watched it
continue rolling past where your foot should have been.

Once you shuddered without warning, as if an exposed
electric cable had touched your leg, the one they had to sever
in an attempt to stop the cancer.

That beast, detected by instruments that traced
only what gets ravaged, played random games with your flesh,
drained the glimmer in your eyes at unexpected moments.

If I had known then how much you loved to dance,
I would have asked you to show me your best moves,
perhaps use my shoulder for balance.

A pair with three legs, laughing away
the awkwardness and the pain, as if we had known
each other since childhood and the day wouldn’t end.

 

 

 

Jim Pascual Agustin was born in the Philippines and has lived in Cape Town, South Africa since 1994. He writes and translates in Filipino and English. His most recent books are published by San Anselmo Publications in Manila: How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & other poems and Crocodiles in Belfast & other poems.

Shelley Reeves obtained a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, in 1994, where her final fourth year examination painting was purchased by the University’s Painting Department. She completed thirteen years’ High School Visual Arts teaching in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Her first solo exhibition was held in Durbanville, Cape Town in 2017. Working primarily in oils and oil pastels, the Biblical messages of new life, hope and love are faithfully portrayed within the realistic realm of vibrant, figurative designs.

Stranglehold

Stranglehold

We build a pyre, my lover
and I, and start
to make a pact off the flames
here, in the middle of the world
here, which doubles as the focal point
of nowhere,
we trace the twinkling locomotion
of glow worms,
count moments between each illumination
and the next.
These nights are theirs,
you tell me,
and so is the world.
We’re only nocturnal guests
of these species.
And, at once, a secret kept in time
as a wellspring is revealed.
And in knowing, I say:
These are the lucky ones.
For, to shed all the little lights
of the world, and
not yourself be so bereft
of light in the end
as to need daily medication,
is, in itself, a gift.

It’s hard to take this confession
as mine;
harder still, to believe
that I could ever say so.

 

 

 

Chisom Okafor, Nigerian poet and clinical nutritionist, shuttles back and forth between the diet clinic and the Nigerian Army College of Nursing, where he teaches courses on clinical nutrition and dietetics. His debut full-length manuscript was a finalist for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.

Annette du Plessis is a South African artist who works in many different media, including embroidery. She has been awarded an FNB Craft Vita Award and a Certificate of Excellence from the Eastern Cape Department of Arts and Culture. She has been involved in several community art projects, serving some of the poorest communities in South Africa. Her work is in many private and public collections. Read more about her creations here: https://annetteduplessisembroideryart.wordpress.com/

Abecedarian for Death by Euthanasia

Abecedarian for Death by Euthanasia

After I give release, the body
becomes a decision made. No longer body, it is now
corpse. A memory to dig a hole for or to scatter in a garden. In
death there is no pain. No tails to wag or faces to lick, no
excitement, only stillness. Once breath
fades, I remove all mark that I was here. I am
giver of an ending. My instruments
have no place beside the already dead.
I cover, shroud with a blanket.
Just right so that it cradles the head,
keeps all that emptiness warm.
Love looks a lot like letting go, sometimes. I touch an arm,
my job is to make that easier, the
need to hold on, the inability to face that it is
over. That no one will wake you at 6am to go out to bark anymore. I
place them down with the gentleness of a lover. Let those left behind collapse
quiet as ashes on the ground. I am the walls they lean on, the foundation, their
rock. I am the only one still
standing in these final moments, after life has left the room.
Twisted as it may sound, the body
understands. Makes space for the leaving from the
very beginning. The last breath of relief has become my most trusted sound.
When my time comes, I hope to be held
exactly as I have held these creatures before – calm
yet gentle. Certain yet compassionate, a
zone of everything will be okay – now you can go.

 

 

 

Melissa Sussens is a queer veterinarian and poet. Her work has appeared in Kissing Dynamite, Anti-Heroin Chic and SFWP Quarterly, among others. She placed 2nd in the 2020 New Contrast National Poetry Prize and lives in Cape Town with her fiancée and their two dogs. Find her on Instagram @melissasussens.

Griet van der Meulen was born in 1956 in the province of Mpumalanga, where she has a small gallery in Graskop, mainly to serve as a platform for local artists, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to exhibit their work. She has taken part in many local and overseas exhibitions in Canada and Germany. In 1991 she was awarded the Schweikerdt Prize for excellence in painting. In 2001 the Mpumalanga Government and German Frauen Kunstforum sponsored her for a residency in Dortmund Germany. Griet also lived in Ottawa for four years where she was part of a group of artists called The Women’s Environmental Network. She has taken part in various exhibitions, and her work is on permanent display in the Graskop Gallery.

Left Hand

Left Hand

As sung by those who have experienced miracles.

Legend is told
of one Saint
Francis of Assisi
at the mount
of La Verna
his left hand
blocking the rays
of scorching sun

as he was
approached by an
angelic figure
with visible scars
as if inflicted
by bronze nails
of Jerusalem’s fingers

& there is but
ONE
thing to be
deadly afraid of
the fact that
if even Saints
have transcendent apparitions
appear before them
then what of
humankind in fear
for their lives

 

 

 

Sihle Ntuli is a South African poet based in Durban. Sihle’s work has appeared in a few notable places, including Lolwe, The Rumpus and Johannesburg Review of Books. Sihle also published a chapbook in 2020 called Rumblin’.

Griet van der Meulen was born in 1956 in the province of Mpumalanga, where she has a small gallery in Graskop, mainly to serve as a platform for local artists, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to exhibit their work. She has taken part in many local and overseas exhibitions in Canada and Germany. In 1991 she was awarded the Schweikerdt Prize for excellence in painting. In 2001 the Mpumalanga Government and German Frauen Kunstforum sponsored her for a residency in Dortmund Germany. Griet also lived in Ottawa for four years where she was part of a group of artists called The Women’s Environmental Network. She has taken part in various exhibitions, and her work is on permanent display in the Graskop Gallery.

Electronic City

Electronic City

The new suburbs create

Confession booths out of lofty balconies.

We kneel in front of the remaining trees.

The new offshoots in concrete

Written off as weed—

The soil knows only what it grows.

Born as a raita amongst leafy kindness,

You ward off tourists in the farmland

As meticulously as parasites in a crop.

Two months after the wind takes down

The watchtower at the farm, there’s enough

Tarpaulin pieces to stitch together a new roof,

Thanks to the saheb in the new society

Where you wash cars.

The ooru grows beyond

Known names and languages

Into app-driven zones that accept delivery.

Your son gasps,

Comparing the bill for a dining order

With his measly pay as a delivery boy.

Isn’t the tale of Bangalore,

The tale of food too?

 

 

 

Notes: Raita is the term for a farmer in Kannada language. Saheb is often an equivalent for Sir in India. Ooru is a village in Karnataka.

 

 

Aditya Shankar was born and raised in India. His poetry, flash fiction and translations are in journals and anthologies around the world. He has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize multiple times. His most recent book XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018) was shortlisted for the Yuva Puraskar (selected by Sahitya Akademi). Shankar’s other books are After Seeing (2006) and Party Poopers (2014). He lives in Bangalore.

 

Born 1976 in Durban, South Africa, Tanisha Bhana is an interdisciplinary artist who also practices as a financial attorney. Through her use of photographic montage, she composes a new visual narrative with layers of charged images. She has participated in numerous collaborative projects, most notably the display of works with poet and activist, Dr Rama Mani, for the performance-dialogue on “War, Women and the Human Spirit”, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada, in June 2014. She has been awarded several awards including the New and Multi-media and Photography Award by the Thami Mnyele Foundation in 2013. She regularly participates in group exhibitions locally and internationally.

A Room with No One in It

A Room with No One in It

speaks with copper-tipped tongues,

makes more rumblings against silence

than any riotous crowd in the market.

 

The dead’s presence is there as it never was

in the days of dinner parties,

hellos and goodbyes, teacups, roses.

 

A classroom screams out children’s names,

the great hall shouts of all those who will come

or have just left. Everything is there or will be soon.

 

There truth trembles, shimmers as light on a lake

at sunset, prepares itself in that pregnant space,

waits to let loose every never-said word.

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Hamilton taught 2nd grade through graduate school in Connecticut, Indiana and Oklahoma, was a medical translator and storyteller. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published and received various awards for 18 books and chapbooks of poetry, children’s novels, and legends and has been nominated nine times for a Pushcart Prize.

 

Griet van der Meulen was born in 1956 in the province of Mpumalanga, where she has a small gallery in Graskop, mainly to serve as a platform for local artists, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to exhibit their work. She has taken part in many local and overseas exhibitions in Canada and Germany. In 1991 she was awarded the Schweikerdt Prize for excellence in painting. In 2001 the Mpumalanga Government and German Frauen Kunstforum sponsored her for a residency in Dortmund Germany. Griet also lived in Ottawa for four years where she was part of a group of artists called The Women’s Environmental Network. She has taken part in various exhibitions, and her work is on permanent display in the Graskop Gallery.

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