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My memories are misshaped.
I know that.

Some have become larger than they were in life.
And some have diminished till they vanish completely.
Some have been embellished and rehearsed
until they are a feature attraction.

But in each
I play the central role.
I, either the victim
or the hero.

Each memory, large or small,
shapes my future.
What I choose to carry with me today
will influence the way I walk tomorrow.

Counting Sardines

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Thoughts swim around in my head —

some eels, slowly coiling about others, threatening to devour smaller ideas

some seahorses, frantically fluttering fins but making little progress

some sailfish, flying through so quickly the mind barely registers them

some smelt, darting frenetically about in panic mode.

I thrash and flail
to no avail —
sleep eludes this tropical aquarium.


Tomorrow night: only three cappuccinos after dinner.

red chairs

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three red chairs









Three lonely red chairs

(as we’re a party of four)

remain forsaken.


Dysplasia (from ancient Greek δυσ- dys-, “difficulty” + πλάσις plasis, “formation”)


Time is such a funny fellow;
often he stays forever
wearing out his welcome like a sock worn outside a shoe.
And then by contrast he’ll flit in and out so fast
it’s impossible to even exchange greetings.

Each night
o’er the last thirty,
after all my work was done,
I’d wrestle him into the wee hours.
Exhausted but determined,
sometimes satisfied / sometimes disappointed,
I thought he’d never stop.

And yet now,
it all seems too soon —
a rather sad farewell.
Three hundred and thirty-five days
seems a lifetime away.

I am glad I refused to let go.
I’ll walk away like Jacob,
but with a new name
and a blessing.





Day 30

I want to say a special thank you to all the new friends I have made during NaPoWriMo this year.  You and your most beautiful and intriguing poems have been the blessing I received through this season.  A special thanks to Maureen Thorson for the space and your inspiration and leadership! 
This month has been arduous, a true “difficult formation.”  But struggle often (I hope) brings growth. I am going to try to keep up the “wrestling” and hope there are many others inspired to continue pursuing the words over the next 335 days.
And we’ll see you all here (and perhaps many more) in 2015.
Salani kahle.  (Stay well, in isiZulu.)


My Bobby Lies Over the Ocean

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The night is an ocean.
In my garden the bats swim through thick pea soup,
as dense as my brother Billy when his belly is full of fermented gooseberries.

Gooseberries, snoozeberries —
Ribes uva-crispa —
full of potassium and vitamin see.
Billy capers on the sea in gooseberry pyjamas,
kicking the sizzling stars of passion back to Reno.

Reno, we know
the sharp, sour tang of a freshly minted coin on the tongue
sets all the slots singing a chorus of  “Hallelujah!
Praise the lord of luck and gooseberries.”
Billy tosses handfuls of change into the velvety blackness of the daylight breeze.

Breeze, knees,
bumpy like Braille.
Billy reads your idolo like a sangoma reads chicken bones.
Ubeka embizeni phezu komlilo.
A whopping wind will whang wafers and wine into next Wednesday
and we’ll have tea with a boer.

Boer, Lore
baked gooseberry muffins for Brother Billy
enticing him away from the moon’s embrace.
Billy came back with the bats, plunging into the mud-clot night
and swimming slowly upstream.






Day 29

Today’s assignment was fun and daunting at the same time. 

The prompt is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. Here are the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

Twenty Years

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A score since
you were brought out of terror
we were brought out of tyranny.

The scars are yet visible
as we reach out to grasp hands

but we keep our eyes
focused on our faces.






This is not the “official” offering for Day 28, 
but yesterday was the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election (national holiday today)
and this month marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
In some ways it seems like just yesterday. And in other ways it feels like another lifetime ago.
Although healing continues, the scars will remain for generations. 


Urumuri *

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who floated through darkness,
who huddled in hushed spaces,
who survived the sounds of madness,
who knew the fear of neighbours’ bad hands,

were resistantly drawn out trembling
(fear in every fibre)
and lost sentience when our hands were forcibly prised from our eyes.

Only now are we learning to trust.
Only now is the light beginning to return.



* Urumuri means “to rekindle the light”





Day 28

Today’s challenge was to find a news article, and to write a poem using words from the article.
The poem didn’t have to be about the subject of the news article itself.  
The news story I chose was about Rwanda. 
There were an estimated 95 000 orphans as a result of the genocide which occurred 20 years ago.
The story was about those young survivors today.

While the poem did not have to be about the subject, after reading the article I couldn’t think of anything else.



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wide African sky

a crack reaches from ground up

dead marula tree






Day 27


Today’s optional prompt:  Write a poem from a photograph.
The  photo above was taken in Kruger National Park in 2011.  
I adore trees and Kruger is alive with them.

faithful follower

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You were a follower, Jerry.
And quite a faithful one at that.

Your pursuit took you to desolate places,

places that were short of hope,

desperate for peace,

missing mirth.

And from your overflowing cup
you brought laughter and light.

Every day when you rose
you picked up that cross
and unswervingly put your feet
into the steps prepared for you.

Your faithfulness blessed us, Jerry,
more that a world away.

Your joyful service testified to a life of reckless love.

And today that cross took you from this world
by means of a bullet fuelled by hate.

Now you are no longer a follower;
you are standing in the presence of God.

May our weak limbs be strengthened
as we arise to take your place
in this world of bitterness and pain.

We miss you.


Hebrews 12






Day 26

Today the words just wouldn’t come.  I started and abandoned more stanzas than I care to acknowledge.  This story (Dr. Jerry Umanos) has been on my heart, and so I started these lines.  Now it is late and hours past my bedtime, so I will leave them here.  Pray for Afghanistan.

consistent inconsistency

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The more they change
the more they change
the more they stay the same.
I can’t keep up
I can’t keep up
I watch it come undone.

I wanna write    I wanna write    I wanna right it all
but things that change they stay the same
and time does not avail.

I long for sleep  –  heavy eyes  –  and yet when down I lie
rest alludes and thoughts, they spin like planets ’round a sun.

Where am I?   I lost myself
while looking at the stars.
A subatomic particle,
lightning in a jar.

I am no one, I am no one,
I am every man.
The more they change, the more they change,
the more I know they can.







Day 25

Today’s prompt is to use anaphora, a literary term for the practice of repeating certain words or phrases at the beginning of multiple clauses or, in the case of a poem, multiple lines.  I didn’t follow directions perfectly, but it is late and the pillow beckons.  Some days are like that, even in Australia.

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