Indra’s Net, a poetry anthology

I’m delighted to be featured in this international anthology – sales go towards literacy projects in Africa, Asia and South America, so if you would like to support a good cause and read poetry at the same time, here you are ….

The following is an extract from Carol Rumens’ foreword:

The title of this anthology, Indra’s Net, was suggested by one of its poets, the late Cynthia Jobin. She explained: “Indra’s net is a metaphor for universal interconnectedness. It’s as old as ancient Sanskrit and as ‘today’ as speculative scientific cosmology. It’s what came to mind when thinking about nets and webs and interconnectedness … and jewels and poems.”

There are many ways in which the metaphor suits the anthology. It’s a book filled with poetic gems, of course, the work of a happy mixture of new and well-known writers, including prizewinning poets like Beverley Bie Brahic and Katharine Towers. The poems connect: poems always do. The poets may have shared their work and reached their global readership via the Internet. And then there’s the most important net of all, described by Wallace Stevens as “The magnificent cause of being,/ The imagination, the one reality/ In this imagined world …”

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1999740807/ref=sr_1_1…

 

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School holidays

Just after dawn
while the sun is still a red ball
and the ground mist rises
from the veld

we make a fire
and brew coffee
in a tin can with a wire handle.
Milk, sugar and Ricoffy,
stolen from the kitchen.

We squat in the dust
and warm our hands
at the embers
wait for it to boil.

The coffee tastes of smoke,
promises aardvark dens,
snake hunts, paper thorns,
stubbed toes and squabbles.

The problem with Dave

is that he doesn’t like surprises,
needs to practise his conversations
so as not to be left bereft of words.
Small talk is easier now,
he’s thirteen and knows
a series of phrases
repeated in the right order.

His words are not filed like yours and mine,
conveniently grouped by subject,
but clumped together in a sticky mass.
He has to search for each elusive one,
has learned to say,
“I’m going to change the subject”
before he talks.

But I have seen him, seated in the train
winking at pretty girls
raising his ginger eyebrows
and smiling, his rosy lips a perfect curve.
I have seen him in the waves, surfing,
laughing ’til his breath runs out,
and I have watched him
talking to his striped cat
with his hands
on the windowsill in the sun.

Spring equinox

I’m down in the valley
fingering the fat furry pods
of lupins
and up above in a cave
people have gathered
I hear them singing.

I wonder if I could
piggyback my pleas
on their prayers
but then I see that god is here
in the plump seeds
and in the wind that sets
my teeth on edge
like bad chalk
on a blackboard.

it’s a fine time to climb a mountain
to be closer to heaven,
or to be a tadpole tumbling
in a river swollen
by late rains,
while the full moon hides
behind the sun’s skirts
waiting for dark.

The other side

We are the children of Africa,
the brotherhood of unwanted strangers
if our faces don’t mark us our accents will
we keep our heads down and walk next to walls.
The church feeds us,
the university canteen feeds us
we stuff our pockets with sliced bread,
take it home for a stale breakfast,
soak it in instant coffee, black and strong,
made with water from the hot tap.

At night we walk the streets
search the gutters, the pavements.
Stand on cigarette packets
to see if they are empty,
check the return slots in the phone boxes.
If they’re jammed we kick them
and the coins fall like water into our hands.
We climb into skips,
open black bags on rubbish day,
find mattresses, shoes, jackets, a suitcase,
burn fruit boxes in the stove,
watch the snow blow through the streets.

In summer there are figs and cherries,
They’re free, anyone can pick them.
The shelf is lined with bottled fruit,
we find an almond tree.
The days are long and hot.
We are happy for a while.

The end of the world

All my life I’ve dreamed of the apocalypse.
When I was a child I barred the doors
and windows against the invasions
that came when I slept.

Now that I’m grown
I still dream that it’s coming
I pack a bag and flee,
home is no longer a refuge.

When I’m awake I believe it will come
in slow small steps, unnoticed,
until it’s too late to get away.

Today I saw it
in the bodies of children
sleeping in the forest,
sprawled in town squares
on the other side of the world.

Then I turned and looked and knew
that it’s been here
all the time
behind me.

Tunis

Jasmine hangs heavy in the air,
a sweet caress.
Dusty urchins sell bouquets
the flowers bruised, bleeding fragrance.
Night-flying moths whirl, cascade,
drunk with the promise of love.
Shadow-hidden, veiled women pass.
The hot sky is star-scattered.

Water-carriers lay the dust,
drops flying from sweeping hands.
The men lie outside on cushions
hookah smoke curling in lazy wreaths,
Oum Kalthoum sings of heartache and loss
longing etched in every word.
The men touch their hearts,
kiss their fingers, speak of passion
in whispers, so that the women cannot hear.


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