But we have children now so
Our past is no longer ours alone,
And outside, the years float
A cork in the water, my hate
Dissolves with the anger in my pocket.
Then later, I drive in the car,
The lamp is no longer hidden,
And I kept on waving,
My hand like light,
Like the air.
(based on the story told by Mr Alwinus Ndodiphela Mralasi to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, South Africa)
We watched you sleep,
The hand of God outstretched,
But in the end,
The sin and shame of your decay
was never yours to hold.
And when the Angel came,
You turned your face to the wall
And you left.
These are the last words that I will say to you.
Moving from room to room in the half-light of the house, dust motes caught in the slim shafts of sun slipping through the half closed curtains. I trace the tips of my fingers across old wooden shelves and glance at the photos placed before the books.
Listener’s Library beside the paisley covered high wing back rocker. Reading glasses on the dining room table, half hidden under post and papers. Dirty work shoes at the kitchen door.
Mom is crying softly in the bedroom and Dad is pacing the hall.
These are the last words that I will say to you.
The afternoon shifts westward as hands fold upon themselves, over and over and over. We close our eyes and wait for the ceiling to dissolve away, to reveal the glory of the bright white clouds above, the towering clouds we always knew were there.
In the bathroom, the tooth-brush still rests in the glass beside the toothpaste. Tubes of paste and bottles of pills in the cabinet. Silent in the gloom. I look at myself in the mirror and trace the line back into the past, beyond the foyer and front door, the oak tree and garden gate.
I hear the sound of a window being opened and in the silence, I hear the release, the breath and know the last words have been whispered.
Through the open kitchen door, I hear children playing tennis in the street.
He may have left some time ago,
She will admit,
But the details, to date, remain unclear.
He faded out, one night,
Mid commercial break
Just before the weather.
Years later, they found him though,
Like the boy in the balloon
Hiding in the attic.
For a while, the suburbs ended a few blocks west of us.
We used to cycle there, to where the half empty street ran into a dirt cul-de-sac, to where the city puttered out into vacant space.
From there, all the way to the end of the world, it was nothing but empty farm land. We used to cycle there and imagine life beyond the distant hills. (I have a memory of heavy skies and cold wind rushing through the long bending grass. And silence).
Do you remember the day they came with the dozers and graders to extend the road? One of the workers told us that they were building new houses out there and that one day, there would be houses as far as we could see.
Later that afternoon, after the work crews had gone home, we went back and played on the machinery, until it got dark.
Then you threw a stone at one of the graders, breaking a tail light. You hated the idea of being surrounded by strangers, other people’s homes, their noise.
I have been back there, since. Without you.
I could not find where the tar had ended and the dirt began. The low ridge of hills in the distance is now covered with big, expensive houses.
Dad says it’s a golfing estate.
Later, I went back with my daughter, after the sun had set and threw a stone at one of the street lights.
EXPLAINING DEATH TO THE CHILD (2)
I don’t know why,
We spoke of dying and
You said you wouldn’t,
What happens after, what
Happens back here?
We thought for a while,
And when the answers came,
You were asleep.
EXPLAINING DEATH TO THE CHILD.
Driving home, I try explain
Why her heart no longer goes
Thump thump thump in her chest.
The traffic is slow and I am fumbling.
You nod and point –
A full moon – the first time this year.
You have been gone a while now and I find myself thinking less and less of you. Sometimes I feel guilty, like I have let you down. But I understand. I understand the process. I will never forget you, for you have given me too much for me to forget you:
Salty play-dough, our charcoal drawings that you stuck up on the cupboard doors, your wood fired oven behind the laundry where we hardened our clay cups and plates, the sound of the ocean through the open window at night. Peace.
I never told you that I loved you, yet you showed me all the time. I am sorry. I wish you were here for me to tell you. I miss you. I miss knowing that you are here. Still around.
I remember driving up your steep driveway, hooting from the bottom to let you know we were arriving. I could not wait to get out of the car, to be where you were, to be where that which you offered me was. I have been fortunate to have known you. You have poured out, given more to me than I deserved.
I have a daughter with you name. She has your joy and I pray that she has your passion. Sometimes I see your eyes in hers when she laughs and I know that you have never left. I still have you.