Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I am rushing off to London for my terrifying Tamil class. All the other beginners dropped out, so I've been incorporated into an advanced class that swooshes merrily over my head. As a result, I can't think clearly about anything much on Wednesdays - so have a poem from one of my favourite South African poets:
Overseas Visitor - Chris Zithulele Mann, South Africa, born 1948

It happened in my sister's backyard in Johannesburg.
I'd packed my bag, was late for the plane back home
and rushing to say goodbye to her husband and young.

Their guest, gentle, humorous, urbane of speech,
the poet and novelist from Delhi, Vikram Seth,
was jetting round the linguisphere of Planet Earth

to plug into its scattered English-speaking nodes
his latest chip, a macro-byte of India's dharma.
With hands on hips, stretching a troublesome back,

he stood beside the tumble-drier, holding a shirt,
drifting, as often that week, back into a privacy
I thought I recognized, where shades emerge and fade,

where present hopes and old regrets, fresh hurts
and solitude are reconciled and generate new dreams.
Mandela being out of prison, the first elections

still a mirage on a wavering, smoke-smudged horizon,
history was breaking out, around and within us.
Standing in the doorway, I started to say goodbye,

remembering a novel set in the raj, rough terrain,
an Indian and colonist on horses, near friendship,
the author, the era stating No, not yet, not there.

A lifting of eyelids. A smile. And then, suddenly,
the dharma, around and within, was urging Here, Now.
I dropped my suitcase on the threshold and embraced.
from THE NEW CENTURY OF SOUTH AFRICAN POETRY edited by Michael Chapman.



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