Winter Wonderings


Saturday Centus #162

The prompt this week:   “If a June night could talk…”
Number of words:  106 total (including the six words of the prompt)
Style of writing: Any

 

Rain  has splattered our windows noisily all day. As night settles and the rain rattles on, the hissing and slight crackle of our log fire keep pace, testifying that like most June nights, it is indeed a cold, wet night in Cape Town.

If a June night could talk, it is not likely our story – of warmth and wi-fi, hearth and home –  that it would tell.  Why would it? There is no news or horror in the mundane middle-class comforts we enjoy.  Except perhaps, that warm and dry ,we spare no thought for the wet beggar, huddled under the bridge,  her stale dry bread now soggy.

homeless

jennysidebar_button_SAT-2

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The Beggar


The Beggar is God’s friend

And when the beggar knocks
Beware:
The one who scoffs
at those in great despair
Will find God’s wrath
Descend upon their path
Wreaking great havoc
Where they once lay
In sleep
As if
In Peace.

For Peace is love and harmony
Kindness and generosity
Not merely in the things we see
But in our hearts
Our minds and
Our humanity.

Can sleep bring Peace
When rights are wronged?
Can Peace be real
When vice is strong?
Can good men sleep
When harm is done –
By their own acts or
Inaction?

Not all beggars appear in rags
Not all are destitute, filling bags
Wives too can beg
For love that’s lost,

For some sign that

They’re not just ghosts
Of past selves
Sold to servitude
Or trapped in timeless platitudes.
They beg for love that they have spent
With passion and servility.
They beg for compassion and dignity
For reinstatement
Of their humanity.

How God must rage at
The audacity
Of men who sleep
Through their calamity.

And still…
Wives pray for God’s Mercy
To reign over their Family.

Revealing the Mask:
I wrote this poem a while ago after visiting the Saartjie Baartman Center for Abused Women in Cape Town, South Africa. I had taken my students on a visit there after discussions on Saartjie Baartman’s story. Aside from gaining an insight into how women in general (and African women in particular) have been viewed historically, they were also keen to get a sense of the havens available to women in abusive relationships today.

It was a somber and moving visit. I went away pondering what the social worker had shared: The women sheltered at the center often had no other options for safety. Despite some coming from comfortable middle class families, most of the women’s  relatives were often detached from the reality of the abuse they faced. Perhaps this is connected to the stigma and perceived humiliation that women fear exposing themselves to by sharing fully the extent of their abuse. Perhaps it is symptomatic of the desensitized society we live in. It was also tragic to note how great a percentage of women sought the sanctuary of the center secretly when their husbands had fallen asleep or gone off to work, how very few would press charges and how many would call those same husbands to fetch them and briskly take them home.

I realise that this behaviour is tied up in the complex psychology of abuse victims, but can’t help believing that despite their own miserable circumstance, women’s inherent protective instinct over those they love is unshakable. I returned home frustrated and saddened  not only by the unchanging history, but by the present reality for far too many women begging to be safe and loved, and the complacency of our society on the matter.

 

Written for prompts from Three Word Wednesday and We Write Poems

Aging with Grace


This post was inspired by my first participation in Saturday Centus (although it’s Sunday- please forgive!) another writer’s prompt site. I must admit that it is a whole new discipline to keep to the limit of 100 word plus this week’s  prompt phrase “How beautifully Leaves grow Old”. I was constantly aware of my reliance on rhythm and needing to balance that with word count makes for a whole new question of diction. I enjoyed the challenge and am disappointed that I didn’t push hard enough to find an “out of the box” take on the prompt. Still, I look forward to trying new ideas as I explore the various prompts online for writers working to develop skill.  Thanks, Jenny Matlock, for keeping this going!

How beautifully leaves grow old:

 

They start off soft and bright and green,

working hard to keep air clean

and feed the parent tree.

They age with speed

but feel no need

to slow the work of time.

They flit and bow

not questioning how

to withstand the wind and rain.

Gracefully, they face each storm

Happy to shelter birds, bees and worms.

And as they age

their skin does change

yet this does not upset them.

For when it is time to say good bye

They don’t hold back their beauty:

No, off they go

waving red, orange and gold-

fulfilling their natural duty.

Promised Poverty


“Corruption is a slow evil,”

I read tonight.

Leaders- indeed politicians- in their double speak

will say We have won,

we no longer live in the darkness of oppression:

we are a leading African nation,

a Democracy of prized freedoms

our economy stable, growing…

evidenced by their armored cars,

their private jets and multi-million mansions

on lush Pretoria hillsides.

 

Mere minions would dispute their claims

ripe with untruth,

stinking of exaggeration and greed

empty in the township daylight

What victory is this

outside my tin shack

with my hands outstreched

or reaching into rubbish heaps

to still my hunger,

find a treasure,

feed?

What dignity?

Lies lacerate my future

but line their swelling pockets

like malnourished bellies

bursting with disease

and rotten promises

In response to Three Word Wednesday’s prompts:

ripe, lacerate, dignity

 

 

Water Haiku


drops of life

sustained universe

essential

H2O

two-thirds of the whole

pure quencher

Gentle rain

dead Earth re-birthing

Gift from God

Written for Haiku Heights. Love their chalenge…30 Haikai in 30 days…not sure I can do it! How about you?

Red Tape and other sticky matters


Reluctantly I wake to

another day

the same as yesterday.

Gray and expectant.

No anticipated e-mail

or message…snail mail?

 

Can snails hurry?

I wonder…

They have just two paces

sluggish

or still.

They don’t move in straight lines either.

And the more you prod them

the deeper they retreat.

Then nothing happens.

Anticipation and expectation

breed such sweet slow brewed anger.

Inboxed

apologies,  delays

another postponement,

red tape

and other sticky matters…

Smouldering,

I race to strike the keys

that cypher my frustration.

Blast. Send. Extinguish.

There.

Back to the tedium, of waiting

I yawn

and rub  my eyes

Dulled by my own disillusionment.

 

Feigning relaxation

I put up my feet

seeking sleep…

an escape

from the exhaustion of more waiting.

 

 

Inspired by the prompts of Three Word Wednesday (dull, yawn, race), the tardiness of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the poor services of Gulf Visa.

Murmurs from the Cape Flats express


 

This week marked a new chapter in my teaching adventures. While others in my profession move cities and countries, I’ve enjoyed the great adventure of moving my classroom from the suburbs to the city center! With the drop in foreign students over the wet Cape Town winter, a reshuffling of staff was in order and I took on doing what I had doggedly dodged for 8 years: working in the city. The idea of navigating the tedium of morning traffic around the mountain, into the heart of Cape Town, wipers swishing and demister puffing, has never inspired any degree of enthusiasm in me. And I had successfully avoided it by teaching in the leafy suburbs…until this week.

 

The truth is that I have been open to  new chapters this year: this blog is evidence of that. So I approached teaching in the city, with adventure in mind – a Metro Rail Adventure, at that! Rather than brave the carbon crawl in my car, I’ve opted for a real life, man-in-the-street experience. Which means (not the dreaded mini bus, thank goodness!) a morning train with my fellow South Africans! And it’s been a learning I continue to look forward to each day.

Now I’ve  traveled by train during various phases of my life before: as a high school and university student, and later as a young working mother. And what I’m getting is how differently we perceive life at the various stages of our journey through it. I accept that the world itself has changed: after all, I am no longer checked for the audacity of entering a first class carriage, signs are now displayed in three official languages inside the train and hawkers are allowed aboard to sell their wares. But what has changed most is my own awareness of life around me, of human behaviour, of the barriers that remain in place despite the apparent freedom we enjoy. As a teenager commuting only two stations, I looked forward to meeting my friends on the station then chatting all the way through the train ride and all through the walk up Kendal Road until the bell went for assembly. Barring a conductor throwing a passenger off for “jumping train”, I was oblivious to the people around me.

But I’m fully present now. And it’s been a wonderful discovery…

Embarking on any adventure requires a spirit of cheer and excited anticipation. So, despite the biting cold of Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, I rose early and eager. This was great! I was out in the fresh air, energised and ready for a real workday start. There was a spring in my step as I briskly trotted down the steps into the subway. Immediately, the whiff of government issue sanitizer hit my nostrils, barely covering the stench of stale urine that lingered beneath it. I found myself smiling and shallowly breathing through my mouth, intent not to gag. Horribly familiar, true, but the memory had faded better than the stench.

Up on the other side, I marched on to the platform and chirped a “Good Morning” to three women sitting on the sheltered bench. One raised a sharp eyebrow, another looked away and the third smiled her bemusement in reply. Determined to maintain my cheerful demeanor, I scanned the platform.  How could there be so many people and so little sound, I wondered. Of course! Coated up against the chill of the morning, almost everyone was wired up to an iPod or their cell. A few others had a book and even fewer sat in pairs talking softly. Here and there were some dejected souls looking like the day’s work ahead was a fate worse than I could imagine. And near the fencing, like me twenty years ago, a group of self expressed teens were freely sharing their opinions on life with their buddies and whoever else would listen.

As the train pulled in to collect us, I realised how sheltered we are in a car –  my usual mode of transport. Without the protection of our vehicles’ hulking metal, we are all afraid, too timid to say hello to a stranger, too self-conscious to even smile warmly. In our cars, we easily show another driver our emotion – a wave to say “go ahead, cut in” or a fed up arched brow saying “Do you think your big car makes your rudeness okay?” We even show fists or a finger when we’re justifiably fed up and we don’t hesitate to blow our horns. But take away the shelter of the windscreen, the roof and the bonnet, put us face to face in a carriage with other human beings and – as in a fully packed elevator – there’s a fearful shut down: eyes drop or stare unseeing, bodies compact and stiffen and bags are clutched tightly.  Nobody wants to engage. There is no acknowledging the other. Even for those teens yakking away loudly, their full-blown expressiveness operates only to keep others at bay.  And packed as the train is, we remain disconnected.

So with these insights, I observe the other passengers. I’m enjoying the world that this adventure has opened…I’m learning about myself. And I’m learning about everyone else. What have you been noticing lately?

I almost omitted mentioning  Three Word Wednesday and this week’s prompts: ‘gag’, ‘maintain’ and ‘omit’. Follow the link in my Blogroll and read some more of the responses.