poetry

while everyone watched rugby

I left my phone at home
(the silence was too deafening)
but even if I’d brought it, it couldn’t have
captured the flamingoes in the gloom

they were defying the drizzle like we were
but while we strode they stood stiller than question marks

behind us, Slangkop’s fingers wanly stroked
the charcoal cliffs, but failed to touch
the couple standing like fishermen’s ghosts
in front of the waves

A man threw a dish cloth down as the Springboks
screwed up again, his wordless disappointment
crashing through the window till it lapped at our feet

My phone was at home, so I couldn’t check the score;
I couldn’t check if you’d called. Instead I could only wonder if you had,
could only wonder if I needed you, or just needed you to need me.

I looked back at those poised pink miracles mired in ink
and I thought about how I mustn’t forget about them,
about how, greeting us with squawks,
they were our comrades against the rain,
about how they were here, and you were not.

Advertisements
Standard
poetry

that rainy day i want to write poetry feeling

oh dear, here’s that rainy day
i want to write poetry feeling,
curdled sweet melancholy
like bruised after sex and he’s gone, gone,

far, the birds call through the trees, the ocean
whispers, drops spatter the sand
not hell, not at all, but slightly flailing,
floating in question marks, the rising tide

overflowing and emptied
that not knowing, not seeing, just feeling feeling
there is work to be done — articles to write, emails to answer
but instead — i’m dithering on evernote

for the first time in months, yes, that rainy day
i want to write poetry feeling, i want to write about
the ache of remembered movie cuddles and sleepy kissing,
the long shadow a goodbye can cast

 

Standard
poetry

New York

I could never live there but today I miss the Micheladas I had at brunch in Brooklyn and food truck grilled cheese and Katz’s choc chip pancakes and watching Broad City in bed while rain muffled the traffic I miss Crosby’s cobbles and cherry blossoms and the books and silence in Poets House and the NYPL and McNally Jackson and the dirty hot subway bustle and the glittering necklace of Manhattan across the water from the Wythe and the Flat Iron singeing an electric sky I miss holding hands under the table at Gemma and walking shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk and the speakeasy with its wanky bacon infused bourbon I still dream of that Old Fashioned and the tulips in Tompkins Square knowing that the Beats had long gone but there was still the rhythm of change this island magnet still pulling people cradling ideas and dreams yes I miss this Babel of accents the people their hustle their arrogance insecurity urgency I miss you

Standard
prose

From Joburg

Let’s rather not give this club a name. The one where he’s standing now. Does it matter? Tomorrow he will wish it doesn’t exist but even nameless it still does, and what happened here happened.

30 minutes ago he was downstairs, waiting with Gideon to draw money. There is a queue of people, as drunk – or maybe drunker – than they are.

“But listen buddy, explain why you won’t make a move,” he’s saying. When his friend doesn’t reply, he pats him lightly on his bearded cheek – as if this will force out an answer.

“Steve, I hate it when people do that.”

He drops his hand immediately. “I’m sorry, bro. Didn’t mean to… I just can’t understand why you didn’t make a move – when you like her.”

The money is drawn. To get to the stairs, do you have to enter the pub on the ground floor, passing the bar, and its glassy-eyed drinkers? Perhaps. These are details, surely unnecessary, surely lost on Steven (and for that matter Gideon too).

At the top. A cover charge? Probably R20, administered by a tattooed girl sitting on a stool, chewing gum – of course. Inside it’s busy but not cramped. There’s a screen, a video animation looking like it was made in Microsoft Paint (can you make videos in Paint?). The music is loud and sexy, beats slamming, fucking, and forcing themselves apart.

Steven goes to the bar – doesn’t ask what Gideon wants; it doesn’t occur to him. There’s a sign on the wall – R22 for a double and a mixer – you can choose from brandy, vodka or cane. No whisky.

He gets a brandy and coke because it’s the closest thing to whisky and he doesn’t know how much a double Bell’s will cost.

The notes, coins, disappear. He looks around, sips, sees Jane and Phil dancing. In 20 minutes from now, when this is all over and he and Gideon are outside, they will have disappeared without saying goodbye. But now they dance, dance like it’s Friday, almost midnight, like they’re young and beautiful and this night is forever.

Steven dances too. Kind of. His body has relaxed now – he is drunk enough to let the rhythm swim through him and ripple out into the room. There is movement but it is not articulate or intentional. Just movement.

He is horny – perhaps it’s the booze and the couples and the frisson of sex which charges the air like a whiff of ganja.

He looks. His eyes meet another pair.

The man is stocky, swarthy, in a fitting tee and loud jeans. Maybe he has a chain. He’s Lebanese or Italian or Greek or something.

Steven smiles and the man smiles back and somehow they drift towards each other.

“How’s it going?”

The man’s reply is a mystery to be teased over tomorrow – it sounds like “Good, but I’m having a hard time finding a threebie.” Perhaps he said freebie. Perhaps he said something completely different.

Whatever he said, Steven thinks he wants a threesome, and this disgusts him. He wonders if it’s with a woman. But he’s not sure. What he is soon certain of, though, is that the guy wants him.

The man introduces himself as Brad. He’s from Joburg. He looks like a cuntfucker, to be honest – he looks like the guy who brags to his friends about cherries and pussy and blonde-platinum expendability.

But no. Brad is gay and wants to either fuck or be fucked by Steven (he never manages to establish his preference).

Do they talk more? Perhaps. It is inconsequential. This is about two men, about sex. What are words? Not even foreplay.

Brad offers to buy Steven a drink. He declines with a polite smile.

“Come on,” says Brad.

And Steven, who is thrilled by the attention and by the opportunity to drink more (his cash has finished), accedes.

“Just a drink, though. Nothing more,” he says.

“Why’s that?”

He has to speak close, almost shouting, into Brad’s left ear: “Because. I’m old-fashioned.”

He doesn’t tell him that he’s scared. It’s not cool to be frightened of fucking men you meet in clubs. But surrounded by architects and art directors and packaging designers and videographers, he is destined to feel uncool. At least Brad is an accountant – and plays soccer on the weekend at the Hellenic Club (probably). He’s as much of an outsider as Steven is.

He smiles easily.

“No worries, bru. What do you want to drink?”

Steven asks for a gin and tonic. Brad hands it to him and they hug like they’ve just played a tennis championship: two fags adrift in straightness.

And does Steven put his head in the crook of Brad’s shoulder? Do his lips briefly gaze his neck as they embrace? Tomorrow he will wonder this and worry, and trace his tongue around the ulcer in his mouth he hadn’t noticed before.

Brad floats away. Steven is near Jane, near Gideon again. Dancing. But this is not over. He sees Brad, sees the other olive-skinned guy (kind of sexy) that he’s with. Wonders if they’re lovers or just friends.

Deliberately he dances near them, his arm brushing the other guy’s slightly once or twice.

“Dude, that’s my brother,” says Brad coming up to him.

The music interrupts, surges in between and around them.

Dancing.

“Get the fuck out of here,” yells Brad suddenly.

Steven looks at him, shocked. “What?”

“I said – get the fuck out of here. That’s my brother. You said you were old-fashioned but really you’re just –”

The music has swallowed up his words. What is he? Steven doesn’t care. Or does he?

“Don’t come here with your Joburg attitude. I can be here if I want.”

“What did you say?” asks Brad.

“I said don’t come here with your Joburg attitude.”

Gideon is suddenly by his side.

“Come Steve. Let’s go.”

He looks at him in shock. How can Gideon be capitulating like this? He had a right to be here. No matter what this fascist fucker says.

Tomorrow when Gideon and Steven are walking down to the waves on Clifton Second, Steven will thank him for pulling him out then. He will thank him for saying “Let’s go. Let’s get a cab.”

But right now his friend is just a coward, a traitor. How did Gideon know? What would have happened if he hadn’t appeared? Steven is a lawyer – careful, attentive, watchful. He wouldn’t have thrown the first punch, would he?

As he writes this now he can see two hands pushing, his own responding quickly with an even harsher shove, and the first swipe coming for his nose. He would’ve walked away then, right, as the blood trickled and sparks crawled across his eyes? Or would he have swept back, fingers scratching, a knee aimed at Brad’s crotch, intent on vanquishing? Vanquishing.

On the beach the others will see Steven dive into the waves, staying submerged in the glassy turquoise for five seconds, six. He will leap up wanting to scream, feeling not wholly purged.

But here he is, at 12.07, on the stairs, smiling at the ink snake writhing on the door-girl’s arm, tripping slightly.

Here he is, telling Gideon it’s fine – he can walk home.

Gideon shakes his head. A cab slides up to them and they climb in. The driver is Zimbabwean and Gideon is chattering away to him in Shona. Steven watches the city’s glowing geometry beyond the window – rows of yellow squares, the fallen triangles of open doors, a traffic light’s amber sun.

When he gets to his flat he thanks Gideon. Does he apologise? Maybe. The door slams shut; the taxi groans forward.

In the lobby the security guard is sleeping. Inside the lift Steven blinks and almost falls asleep himself. He tries to unlock the flat’s front door. The key won’t turn – his flatmate must have left his key in on the other side. He sinks down, snoring.

Standard
prose

Friday

You are not drunk but you must be. Red wine, and martinis (not dirty – they ran out of olives) and shots of tequila with orange slices. And now a whisky (or whiskey – it’s too noisy to know) in your hand. But the jumping about to the Black Eyed Peas, the shut bathroom door as Steve and Miranda and Adrian were in there, the writhing of Francesca on the dining room table, you joining her, your back on the wood, kicking legs up, chandelier shards grazing your eyeballs. That is all there, crisp and close. So is the walk down the hill, your cousin wheeling his bike, your yelp as he almost knocks a Range Rover. You don’t know then, of course, that outside the club you will see Rob for the first time in months; the last time was at Will’s birthday party. Rob the gangly redhead with scuffed boots and a puppy smile. Rob who is as pleased to see you as you are to see him. You don’t know that inside you will dance because you have drunk enough to dance and not care and that sometimes your bodies will touch and you will lean forward or he will as you say something – or he does – about the fat boy trying to grope Rob’s mate Ashley. You won’t care about the times you have declared your dislike of clubs, declared that you will never find a man in a club, because surely, surely, the kind of man you want doesn’t really go to clubs. You and Rob will go outside and leave your cousin holding his drink and nodding to the beat beat beat, not really wondering or caring because you know that although Rob may be curious about your cousin’s racing bike, he actually wants to be outside, alone, with you. This doesn’t bother you – and you don’t know if it should. You don’t know the rules of this, what, game, no, not a game: this is just the two of you walking to the door between dancers, walking to the balcony. You talked. About the bike, first; about varsity; about Rob’s band (he plays guitar). He asked you, didn’t he, about what you’ve been up to, and you know this question is asking something else. You said you’ve been busy; you didn’t tell him about Adam. And why should you tell anyone about Adam? He is a myth, a dream, a story you can’t tell the ending of. He is memories of lunches and coffee and a kiss on your cheek after the movie. He is silences, longer now: gaps he fills with work and maybe someone else and you just fill with wondering. He is the man you bump into at the coffee shop and at the gym and wonder when – if – he will suggest meeting up again because god knows you’ve dropped enough hints. You talked about work. You were close. Touching. And then you were leaning up – he is taller – because you knew you could and you wanted to and you were kissing. His mouth was smoky, neck too, and you told him this. It was the club, you were told; he was nonplussed, a non-smoker, and you shrugged because you didn’t mind the smoke, really, and because you wanted to carry on. You wrestled each other into the corner. You kissed him again, nuzzling the coppery fuzz, brushed a nipple, leant into him, felt the cotton of his underwear, the slight curve of his ass. On the other side of the glass: a stranger was knocking and waving. You looked at each other and laughed and kissed again and you touched the firmness under the t-shirt and accused him of going to gym. Your cousin was outside, unchaining his bike. Frowning. You sounded surprised when you asked him if he was leaving. You asked him if he would be OK. He nodded, waved, threading up the road and round the corner. You were worried but Rob reassured you. And you kissed again, and he asked if you had read Hollinghurst and you admit that yes, you’ve read all his books. Later, when you are in your bed and not thinking or feeling or dreaming, just somewhere between being awake and asleep, you will remember his sheepish request for your number and the way you laughed and thumbed his into your phone and called him. You will remember him telling you he has work the next morning (he is a barista), and how you kissed and nodded and told him that was cool – and it was. He drove you home even though you said it was close and you could walk; he insisted and you acquiesced because neither of you were quite ready to say goodbye. Before sleep takes you, you might remember the kissing as the car idled; the way you both started saying how nice it had been to bump into each other; both of you laughing and kissing again and then slowly letting go. You wake once to piss, to drink water. And as you settle back into bed you will smile and feel OK and not know why.

Standard